She vaulted her way into the hearts of Bay State residents. And now she has come home.
Olympic medal-winning gymnast Aly Raisman of Needham arrived at Logan International Airport Wednesday, met by dozens of journalists, family members, and fans.
When Raisman stepped through the door to the terminal lobby, clad in a pink-
collared shirt and stylish skinny jeans, dozens of cameras clicked furiously as friends and fans rushed to greet her.
“It’s still a lot to take in,” she said. “It will definitely take a long time until it sinks in, but I’m excited to go back to my gym tomorrow and see my teammates there.”
Talia Chiarelli and April Baker, both 17, trained with Raisman at Brestyan’s American Gymnastics Club for the past six years, and traveled to the airport to greet their friend because they said Raisman had asked them to be there.
“She’s our best friend and teammate,” Baker said. “It’s weird to see her on TV, doing the same thing she did in practice every day and winning the gold for it. It’s amazing.”
Raisman said she was thankful for her family, as her mother, father, grandmother, and siblings stood behind her. “Without them, none of this would have been possible.”
As Raisman hung her three medals — two gold, one bronze — around her neck, she laughed, describing her new accessories as “really heavy.”
Raisman said she is still getting used to her sudden fame, adding that she especially liked meeting celebrities like Jordin Sparks and Nicki Minaj in New York City this past week during an interview blitz with her US gymnastics teammates.
She said she hopes to encourage other aspiring gymnasts. “I hope that we all inspired all those girls, because I used to be that little girl who watched them and wanted to be like them,” she said.
One fan and aspiring gymnast drove from Winthrop to greet her idol at the terminal, waiting for almost an hour before Raisman arrived. Francesca Vigliotta, 14, clutched a magazine outlining the London Olympic athletes, with a bookmark placed on the page profiling Raisman.
“I’m hoping to meet her,” Vigliotta said. “I want to say congratulations for all her medals.”
Yet as Raisman made the rounds to the friends she left behind over a month ago, Vigliotta strived to break through the crowd for a quick photo and autograph.
“Hold on,” Raisman told her, hugging the last of her high school friends before making her way outside to the white stretch limousine waiting to take her home to Needham.
Vigliotta followed her, tears streaming silently from her eyes as she watched her idol slip away. But a man stepped out of the limousine and beckoned Vigliotta to come over.
Raisman stepped out, pausing to take a picture and sign Vigliotta’s magazine. And as the world-famous gymnast slipped back into the car, finally headed for her Needham home, her 14-year-old fan smiled.
Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.