Needham’s Aly Raisman was part of two select — and very elite — groups of gymnasts at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics this month.
The athletes on the U.S. women’s team dubbed themselves the “Final Five” after winning gold in the team all-around, a reference to the last squad to be guided by the legendary, and now retired, Marta Karolyi.
On Tuesday after Raisman won silver and her teammate Simone Biles took gold in the floor exercise, Karolyi called them the “Final Two.” They celebrated by eating french fries and chocolate ice cream in Olympic Park. Raisman ended her Rio Olympics experience with a trio of medals — gold in the team all-around and a pair of silvers in the floor and individual all-around.
The 22-year-old, who won two gold medals and one bronze at the London Games four years ago, didn’t rule out returning to the Olympics in four years.
“I said I get better with age, so maybe I will,” Raisman said. “It’s not always fun getting back into this crazy shape that we’re in right now, but I love gymnastics and I love competing and I think I surpassed my expectations and everyone else’s. I’m on a high right now. “I’ll take a break and come back to the gym and see how it goes.”
Raisman’s life has revolved around gymnastics since she started tumbling at age 2. As a young girl, she would watch — over and over again — the ‘Magnificent Seven” U.S. gymnasts competing at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. She was hooked. Twenty years later, she’s a gymnastics legend with a half dozen discs of precious metal hanging around her neck — and that’s not counting the countless medals she’s won at the world championships, Pacific Rim Championships, and other top-level competitions.
A scroll through Raisman’s Twitter feedreveals messages of congratulations from fellow athletes, celebrities, and even total strangers who included a photo of their young daughters emulating Raisman while watching her perform on TV.
“So precious. I remember being that little girl too,” Raisman wrote in response to one photo posted by a fan. Raisman told reporters after she finished second to her teammate Biles in the all-around that she was impressed with the crowd that cheered them on. She also went into the event seeking silver, not gold.
“Being in Brazil, and not in the USA, you don’t expect many people to be cheering for you or to get a standing ovation so it was very emotional,” Raisman said. “The crowd — this was the best arena and atmosphere I have ever been in. It was just incredible. It’s a moment I will never forget. “No one goes into this thinking they can beat Simone. I’m sure most people don’t go into it thinking they can beat [Jamaican sprinter Usain] Bolt either. I told her before today, I want you to win and I want second.”