In the spirit of the 2016 Olympics in Rio, we wanted to bring back this gem of an interview with Aly Raisman from our 2013 Life with Teens magazine. Good luck Aly!
That’s what every young gymnast, including my daughters and I hoped to see as we watched the teen tumbling phenom, Aly Raisman, rotate the floor at the 2012 Olympics.
And stick it she did. With two air-catching vaults; a perfectly placed landing off the uneven bars; a heart-stopping performance on the beam (and bronze); and the delivery of what is now deemed the “greatest women’s Olympic floor routine in history,” earning her a 15.600 and gold!
She began the sport at age 18 months in Mommy and Me classes, then continued with countless hours and years at Brestyan’s American Gymnastics Club in Burlington, Mass. But Aly admits that her true dedication to the sport and Olympic dream did not come until watching a video of the 1996 women’s gymnastics team – over and over and over again.
Who knew her Olympic dream would actually come true? She did. I knew right away when meeting Aly that she possesses fierce determination and extreme confidence; she knew that she had trained consistently over the years and was ready to dominate.
“The idea of making the Olympic team was always so vivid in my mind, and that’s all I ever wanted to do,” she said during an interview with me. “Every night when I went to sleep and every morning when I woke up, it was always on my mind 24/7.”
She added, “There were obviously many days when I didn’t feel good or had a bad workout, but the thought of not making the Olympic team literally would push me to keep going and keep working. I felt really prepared and had worked really hard.”
As for being a team player, she said, “I think that competing as a team is definitely not always easier, but it is a little better because you have that [team] support, and you are with each other every step of the way. … We wanted to get the most medals possible for the USA. There was a great team dynamic. It was truly exciting and a lot of fun.”
The competitiveness of elite gymnastics can certainly take its toll on a young body and an aspiring mind but Aly credits the support of her parents and family (she has three siblings) as a big influence on her maintaining a balance between athletics and being a typical teen.
The world will probably never forget the eye squinting and swaying of her parentsduring the competition in 2012, illustrating the Raismans’ loving support of their daughter.
Aly’s father, Rick, who typically picked her up and watched the end of practices, chimed in about preparing for London: “I didn’t exactly prep her, but I was always there for her, whether it was physically, mentally, or emotionally. If she needed more massages each week, we made sure to make that happen. We did everything we could to make her feel as good as possible when she wasn’t at the gym. We really reinforced that hard work trumps everything else, and she truly believed that. I think that made a huge difference for her.”
tAly’s moher, Lynn, added, “Of course there were times when she was frustrated and felt overwhelmed, but we just encouraged her. As long as she tries her hardest, no matter what the outcome is, we are always proud of her.”
Lynn reminds all parents, whether or not their children are elite athletes, “our role is a support role. I think the drive and the determination have to come from the kid. I don’t think it works out when it’s the parents who are pushing them to go [to practice]. I also think that it is easy to get caught up in expectations. It is important for parents to enjoy what’s happening. That’s the reason your child is involved in the sport in the first place – their love and excitement for the sport. ...
“Although it was definitely a big time commitment traveling to meets and practices and all of that, when she was home, life went on. We have three other kids; there wasn’t any special attention on her.”
Outside of the gym, Aly maintains a typical teen lifestyle. She shops. She texts and tweets religiously. She listens to the more than 1,500 tunes on her iPhone, hangs out with her friends, and juggles her sport and schoolwork. “I don’t procrastinate. I do a lot of my homework on the weekends to catch up or to take a lot off of my plate for the upcoming week,” she emphasized.
“Even if you are really focused in your sport, I believe you should also put 100 percent into your schoolwork, because that’s just as important.”