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Needham pauses as Raisman wins two more medals

Stephan Savoia/Associated Press

A sign outside Taylor's Accents in Needham recognizes Aly Raisman, captain of the US women's gymnastics team, on Aug. 1.

NEEDHAM — As Aly Raisman took to the Olympic stage again Tuesday, winning a gold medal for her floor routine and a bronze in the balance beam competition, residents and family members in her hometown were crossing their fingers for their local hero.

Shop owners and town employees gathered in small groups to watch her two live performances on the beam and floor exercises Tuesday morning. Some gathered around high-definition televisions. Some looked up Raisman’s scores online. And still others tried to shield themselves from the news, hoping to wait to watch NBC’s taped broadcast later in the evening.

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Even a stranger to the town would notice the signs of the town’s pride, as banners adorned storefronts and town sidewalks. “We are all so proud of you Aly!” said one. “Congratulations Aly Raisman for winning the gold!” said another.

“The idea of a hometown girl making the Olympics is huge,” said Maureen Fitzgerald, co-owner of Taylor’s Stationery on Highland Avenue. “Needham has really gotten behind her and supported her.”

After Raisman’s performance Tuesday morning, her maternal grandmother, Susan Faber, sat in her Newton home amid photos of a young Raisman and other family members, fielding calls from reporters and waiting for the arrival of yet another cable television crew.

Faber said she went to her twin sister’s house to watch her granddaughter perform.

“It was exciting and nerve-racking at the same time,” Faber said. “She was the third one to go, so we had to wait to watch her. But the way she hugged her coach . . . it’s just one of the most exciting experiences of my life.”

‘It’s nice to see someone who works so hard succeed and achieve what they want.’

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Faber, hoarse from cheering these past few days, sent congratulations from afar: “I sent Aly a text saying, ‘Congratulations, wow!’ ” she said.

In addition to Tuesday’s two medals, Raisman won a gold medal for the team competition last week.

At Needham Town Hall Tuesday morning, a handful of town employees gathered around a large-screen television just before noon, chatting about the Olympics and their day’s work while waiting for Raisman to perform her floor exercise.

When the Needham native took to the mat, the room fell silent. After her first running combination, flipping through the air in her red, white, and blue leotard, a collective gasp let out, and the women watching started yelling out encouragement.

“That sets the tone,” one viewer said, while another exclaimed, “Oh man, that was beautiful.”

Needham Town Manager Kate Fitzpatrick joined in, announcing she had goose bumps.

“Whatever happens, she was beautiful, and it was a beautiful thing to watch,” Fitzpatrick said.

As Raisman collected the gold medal for her floor routine, the town employees squealed.

“It’s nice to see someone who works so hard succeed and achieve what they want, and having her be from Needham is all that more exciting,” said Sandy Cincotta, a town support services manager.

Corina Andriescu, a Taylor’s Stationery worker and Needham High School’s 2012 class president, said she and some of Raisman’s other friends were planning to watch the performance later Tuesday night.

“It’s tough to wait because it’s easy to be given away. I was working all day, and people come in here and talk about it,” she said.

Andriescu, who has known Raisman since the sixth grade, said she felt very proud.

“It’s so weird to see her on national TV, but we can still see all her mannerisms — like giving hugs and pep talks,” Andriescu said. “It’s the same Aly we’ve grown up with.”

Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at
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