The father of Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman returned to Needham on Wednesday weary but proud, and began to tend to the mundane tasks of picking up the family dogs, putting his other three kids back on a normal schedule, and going back to his job with an insurance company.
“Let me tell you, I’m a little run down right now, but it was all worth it,” Rick Raisman said in an interview. “We were already gone for a number of days, so it was time to get back.”
In the whirlwind of the last few weeks, his daughter, the team captain, won two gold medals and a bronze in the gymnastics competition. Rick and Lynn Raisman became internet sensations when their exuberant cheering for Aly was captured on video. Friends back home, from the rabbi of her synagogue in Newton to kids in the gyms where she got her start, have watched her every move.
But as Aly became one of the most recognizable faces of this year’s Olympic games, her father said he, his wife, and Aly’s three siblings saw Aly face-to-face for a total of about 10 minutes in London.
“We got to see her one day after the team won gold for five minutes when we met them at the ‘Today’ show,” he said. “Then last night, they had a little reception at the USA house, so we saw her for few minutes there.”
‘I just drove through Needham for the first time, and saw a bunch of things, which is really great. It’s nice to see the community is behind her and recognizes her accomplishments.’
For Rick Raisman, the successes are a proud payoff for a life that began when they enrolled Aly in her first gymnastics class when she was just 18 months old and continued with workouts that had the family making as many as eight trips a day to a Burlington gym.
Raisman said Aly worked tirelessly toward her Olympic goals, training for 35 hours per week. She gave up applying for college and attending her senior year of high school. (She graduated from Needham High this June after completing a year of online courses.)
“When she was 15 and made the national team, she was like, ‘Maybe I am good enough to do this,’ ” Raisman said. “She has not only the talent, but the need to understand what’s going on mentally, which go hand in hand.”
Looking back, he seemed a bit baffled at the blur of the past few weeks.
“She was always really good, but when I heard she was going to be the captain of the US Olympic team, and then they won the team gold,” he said, trailing off. “It’s like with any kid growing up. You want them to have fun and enjoy what they’re doing. As time went on, she just kept working and working and got better and better.”
Raisman said he hopes she will try for the gold again.
“Hopefully, we’ll be doing it again in 2016,’’ he said. “That would be great. I think while all these opportunities are happening now, she’ll probably take advantage of what makes the most sense for her. She can always go to college, even five years from now.”
He chuckled at the video he saw Wednesday showing a man sitting behind him and his wife during Aly’s gold-medal individual floor performance becoming agitated with the couple’s cheering, at one point tapping Raisman’s shoulder and telling the two to sit down.
“I didn’t know it at the time, but I remember feeling something on my shoulder,” Raisman said. “It was just one of those moments, when she hit that floor routine, nothing else mattered then. We’re actually pretty laid back, but at that moment everything is so magnified and so incredible and crucial that you just kind of get locked in.”
Raisman also discussed “Hava Nagila,” the Hebrew folk song his daughter chose as the music for her floor routine.
“She wanted a really upbeat song and something that had a little history to it, so she went to her coaches and national team coaches, and they loved it,’’ he said. “She wanted to find a song everybody could clap to and be proud of.’’
Aly has told reporters that the song was not an intentional tribute to mark the 40th anniversary of the 1972 terrorist attack on 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, though she has said it meant a lot to her to win the gold on the anniversary.
The Raismans joined Temple Beth Avodah, a reform synagogue in Newton, about 15 years ago, and put Aly through Hebrew school until her Bat Mitzvah at age 13, said Rabbi Keith Stern, who has been at the temple for 16 years.
“I would say her family is a very proud Jewishly connected family, in terms of their sense of who and what they are. It reflects on what they do in the world and on their basic values,” Stern said, describing Aly as a “sweet, confident, very focused person.’’
Aly and her mother are expected to fly back to Massachusetts after the closing ceremonies in London next week. Raisman said his daughter will “take five minutes off” before joining the other American Olympic gymnasts for a 40-city tour starting at the end of August.
“I think she’ll have fun, because all the girls get along great, and it’s not as intense as competing,” he said.
Wednesday he saw the signs and banners adorning Needham storefronts and on sidewalks proclaiming: “We are all so proud of you Aly!” and “Congratulations Aly Raisman for winning the gold!”
“I just drove through Needham for the first time, and saw a bunch of things, which is really great,” he said. “It’s nice to see the community is behind her and recognizes her accomplishments.”
And Aly appreciates her parents’ support, too.
After she won the gold and bronze medals for individual floor and balance beam on Tuesday, she tweeted: “Thank you to my amazing parents! Love them so much. So thankful for their love & support all these years. I couldn’t ask for better parents.”