At 1 year old, Aly Raisman of Needham attended her first infant gymnastics class. At 8, she received a tape of the US women’s gymnastics team winning the Olympic gold medal in 1996. Raisman found it so inspirational, she told National Public Radio, “I would replay it, like day after day.” She was so obsessed, she molded herself into one of the best gymnasts on the planet, doggedly climbing up ropes using only her hands, with 10-pound weights pulling on her legs. Last fall, at the world championships, when US team captain and Winchester native Alicia Sacramone tore her Achilles tendon, it was Raisman who exhorted her team to the gold medal, saying, “We’re going to remember this night for the rest of our lives, so let’s make it count.”
For all her confidence, the 18-year-old Raisman displayed a refreshing appreciation of the moment when she was named last weekend to the US women’s team for the London Olympics. “I couldn’t even breathe,” Raisman said. “It was such a special moment, and I’m so honored and so excited.” Sacramone, a member of the 2008 silver medalist team at Beijing, but who missed making the London team, passed the torch to Raisman by calling her the “backbone” of the US squad, a “rock under pressure.” If the American women go on to Olympic gold, it likely will be because Raisman is the rock who will not let her team wilt under pressure.