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Aly Raisman talks Tokyo 2020, giving back to Boston and feeling fierce

It’s a balancing act for this Olympic gymnast.
Aly Raisman
Aly Raisman helped donate mattresses to the Boston-based homeless shelter Heading Home. Photo by Josh Jason

Aly Raisman is busy, awash with opportunities to attend award shows, lend her resources and star-power to worthwhile causes and share her story with her global fan base. But don’t think this gold-medalist has forgotten her Olympic roots; Raisman says she’s still eyeing a third Olympic run at Tokyo’s 2020 Games.

“That’s definitely something that’s on my mind,” Raisman says. “I took a full year off after London. This time I’m going to take off a bit more time because I was really lucky to be even busier than I was after London.”

She adds, “I feel like right now I’m so happy and so grateful about everything I’m doing that I just want to keep it up right now and then I’ll continue training.”

In the meantime, the Needham-native is giving back to Boston. Raisman is a brand ambassador for mattress-company Leesa’s social giving program, which donated 165 mattresses to Heading Home, a Boston-based shelter and organization aimed at ending homelessness. She was on hand as Leesa donated its mattresses to a Heading Home shelter in Dorchester on July 18, speaking and meeting with the shelter’s residents.  

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“To be able to be here and spend the day with these kids is very, very special,” says Raisman. “I think it goes without saying how important it is for me to be involved with something like this.”

The 23-year-old athlete notes that the philanthropy of other Boston sports stars inspires her to also give back.

“I think it’s really motivating to be from Boston because it’s such a great sports city. It’s one of the best sports cities in the whole entire world,” Raisman says.  “To be around so many athletes who are so motivated, such great businessmen and do so much to give back to the community is very incredible to watch.”

Leesa CEO David Wolfe says Raisman approached the company about getting involved with its charity work after buying a Leesa mattress for herself. Wolfe has talked with Olympian at length and says he was struck by her desire to dedicate her life to making a difference.

“We’re in the business of dreams [as] a sleep company and she said that she doesn’t want to be remembered for what she did when she was 21 even though she’s very proud of what she’s done,” Wolfe says, referring to her last Olympic run at Rio 2016. “She wants to be remembered for what she’s done her whole life.”

Wolfe says that next week Leesa and Raisman will be launching a jointly-branded product. A percentage of the proceeds will go to her charity of choice.

Raisman isn’t only busy with philanthropic work. She has a book entitled “Fierce” coming out November 14 which is already available for pre-order on Amazon. She says the book will document her life story, both during the Olympics and the training that led up to it, and will make readers laugh and cry.

“I’m just basically showing everything that I’ve been through that’s made me the person I am today,” she says.

Raisman’s book will also focus on body positivity, a subject on which she has been a vocal supporter.

“We all have moments when we feel anxious and nervous and I think it’s really important to talk about,” she says. “I think the more we talk about it the more we can help each other.”

Raisman’s says she tells young girls struggling with their body image to focus on what’s on the inside.

“I’ve found that when I’ve focused on things that make me feel empowered and strong, I don’t worry as much about how I look,” she says.

“Competing in the Olympics, you worry people are watching you compete on TV in a leotard,” Raisman adds. “But I think it’s important to take a step back and realize that if you’re a good person, it’s a bajillion times more important than the way you look.”

 
 
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