LITTLE CANADA, Minn.-Maggie Nichols of the Twin Cities suburb of Little Canada didn't want it to happen anymore to anyone else, so she spoke up.

With the help of Twin City Twisters coach Sarah Jantzi, Nichols was the first to report team doctor Larry Nassar's sexual abuse to USA Gymnastics in 2015 - in the middle of Nichols' push to make the U.S. Olympic team - which helped lead to Nassar's removal.

Nassar is now in prison, serving out sentences for child pornography and the sexual abuse of hundreds of girls that will almost certainly leave him locked up for the rest of his life.

"I knew that it was the right thing for me to do to tell someone and to get it started a little bit," Nichols said, "because it was happening for too long and it needed to stop."

Nichols went public with her experience in January, revealing herself as "Athlete A" in court documents and putting another face on Nassar's list of victims. Nichols is one in a group of gymnasts who will receive the 2018 Arthur Ashe Courage Award for the roles they played in ending Nassar's crimes.

Nichols, who will be a junior at the University of Oklahoma this fall, said it "means the world" to be selected for the honor. She called it "a dream come true" to attend the event, adding it's "incredible that they're recognizing us for what we've been through."

In announcing the award in May, Alison Overholt, vice president and editor of ESPN The Magazine, said the gymnasts "have shown us all what it truly means to speak truth to power, and through their bravery, they are making change for future generations."

Oklahoma coach K.J. Kindler said Nichols struggled with her decision to go public. The coach described her star gymnast as "an extremely sensitive woman" who always wants to do the right thing.

"To build up the courage took a period of time," Kindler said. "I think her working up that courage has helped her become a stronger person, period, in all aspects of her life. Because you have to go out on a limb sometimes, you have to take a risk, and that's a very uncomfortable place for Maggie - to take that risk. She's grown so much through this process because of that."

Nichols said she gained strength from the gymnasts who already had spoken out publicly. Each account gave her additional confidence and courage. By speaking out, Nichols felt she would do the same for girls everywhere.

She took comfort in knowing she would have the support of her family and friends, her teammates and people in Oklahoma, but she underestimated support she would receive. In the days after going public, Nichols received countless messages via text, Twitter and Instagram.

She said it took her "a few weeks" to respond to everyone she knew.

"It was incredible," Nichols said. "I was kind of shocked, to be honest, how many people were behind me."

Still, Nichols was nervous about the timing of her announcement, which came less than a week before the start of her sophomore season. Kindler said the season is already stressful for Nichols given her expectations. She didn't know if the sophomore was strong enough to handle it all.

But less than a week later, Nichols was competing in three events against Georgia and recording an average score of 9.9.

"Just think about how amazing that was to still go out that first meet and nail it all, as she always does - do the Maggie Nichols thing - even under all that duress," Kindler said. "Hugely impressive."

Three months later, Nichols claimed the NCAA championship in the all-around.

Nichols said the chance to practice and compete in the gym helped take her mind off everything else. Kindler noted "it would be so easy" for someone in Nichols' situation to blame gymnastics for her experience, but she didn't.

"She, in her bone marrow, loves the sport. It's her passion. She can't envision a life without it," Kindler said. "That love is so great that no one human being, and what he has done, could even come close to putting a nick in that. She understands that it's the person that did the damage, not the sport. I think that perspective has been immensely important to the other people that went through this."

Nichols continues to serve as one of the sport's greatest ambassadors and still refers to gymnastics as "a beautiful sport" that has allowed her to travel and given her the chance to meet people.

"I don't like when people look at this whole thing with gymnastics and say that gymnastics isn't as beautiful as they thought it was, just because this whole thing doesn't tie into how beautiful gymnastics really is and what it really means," she said. "I just try to look at all the positives of gymnastics and what it's really taught me and everything like that. It would never change my love for the sport."

Nichols takes her duties as a role model as seriously as anyone - "It just gives me a lot of motivation and courage," she said - and hopes gymnastics has become a safer sport in the wake of her ordeal. She believes her decision to speak up "made a big impact in the long run" and knows that it was the right one, "Even with how hard it was."

In a statement, ESPYs producer Maura Mandt said the award "will reflect the awe and admiration these individuals deserve."

Kindler said the sport is undergoing a "metamorphosis." U.S. Gymnastics has adopted new rules in an attempt to make the sport safer.

"It will all be for the positive eventually," she said. "I'm excited about the future of USA Gymnastics and about the change that will make it safer for little girls.

"It is the reason the change is happening, that very first report. It's astounding."