Alicia Sacramone already had retired once after the Beijing Olympics and had made two comebacks. “This time’s for real, though,” insisted the Winchester gymnast, who’ll make a formal announcement on Tuesday that she is leaving the sport with a bemedaled legacy after a decade at the elite level.
The 25-year-old Sacramone, who just missed making last year’s US team for London after rebounding from a ruptured Achilles’ tendon, will depart as the most decorated American global gymnast with 10 medals from five world championships, four of them gold, plus a silver team medal from the 2008 Games.
“I think it says a lot that I stayed around for so long,” said Sacramone, who began her career as the baby sister of the American squad and ended it as its mother hen. “I had a great career. I wouldn’t change anything about it, although it would have been nice to have had fewer injuries.”
Sacramone had made her first return in 2010 after rehabbing from shoulder surgery and went on to win a gold vault medal at that year’s world meet and lead her teammates to the team silver.
Then, after sustaining her Achilles’ injury on the eve of the 2011 championships, she put herself on a fast-forward regimen to get ready for the 2012 Olympic trials. “Obviously it would have been sweeter if I’d made the team,” she said. “But coming back from a big injury, to be at the top of my game, to be a contender . . . ”
Though Sacramone finished second on the balance beam to clubmate Aly Raisman and tied for third on vault, she was bypassed for the five-member team which needed help on uneven bars, where Kyla Ross was a specialist.
After spending a week in a funk Sacramone decided to attend the Games anyway and happily watched her former teammates claim the gold medal and Raisman win gold on floor. “It was great,” she said. “It was like a dead giveaway that they were going to win but it was fun to see them and Aly, especially having watched her grow up.”
Sacramone, who’d been through three Olympic cycles (she’d tried out for the 2004 team at 16), had concluded then that her career was over. “[Coach Mihai Brestyan] still says, you can keep training,” she said. “I said no way, big guy.”
But with another competitive season underway — the American Cup will be held in Worcester at the beginning of March — Sacramone wanted to make her decision public and end speculation. “People have been asking if I was still part of the national team,” she said. “It’s just a good time.”
By retiring now Sacramone, who spent two years at Brown and is taking Harvard Extension courses online, can focus on finishing up her college studies and devote more time as co-owner of Sole Impact, which makes shock-absorbing socks. Her gymnastics résumé needs no additional enhancements.
“You look at the 10 medals, she is the most accomplished gymnast in the United States,” said Brestyan. “For me she was all the time a role model for the national team for her work ethic, for her respect for the program, and for the longevity she had. Alicia helped the program be the best in the world.”