The Olympic gymnast tells us about her work ethic, her fashion taste and the toughest judges in the game.
Three-time World Championship medalist Aly Raisman, 18, is representing the USA in the London Olympics. A native of Needham, she was the only female gymnast featured in Vogue’s 2012 Olympic preview. Regarded as one of the world’s best tumblers, she began gymnastics when she was just 18 months old. Raisman realized she wanted to be an Olympic athlete at the age of 10, and she keeps a journal of her experiences that she hopes someday to publish. She has volunteered with the Special Olympics, and earned sponsorships from Kellogg’s, Ralph Lauren, GK Elite, and Got Milk? She lives with her parents and three younger siblings in Needham.
So do you have a crush on Prince Harry?
No, I don’t, but I like William and Kate a lot because they do a lot of charity work, and I really like Kate’s fashion sense.
Souvenir you want to bring back, besides a medal?
All the Olympic clothing. I think it’s so cool to be able to wear a shirt with the Olympic rings that says London on it.
What do you think of the uniforms?
I really like them. I’m one of the Ralph Lauren athletes, actually, and I got to go on the Today show and show them. I really like the Village wear. It’s a great mix of preppy and vintage.
Are you nervous about having billions of people watching you?
I don’t really like to think about that. Just being able to represent the USA and doing the best I can, and experiencing the whole thing will be really cool.
Ever practice your pose for the Wheaties box?
[Laughs.] No, never.
Name three things you can do that I can’t.
I can do flips from the beam and tumbling and…
Can you touch your head with your feet?
Yup. I can do that.
Favorite name of a gymnastics move?
They’re all kind of funny, but I guess my favorite is “amanar.” It’s a cool word. It’s a two-and-a-half twisting vault.
Is Nadia Comaneci an idol of yours?
Definitely. I think everyone looks up to her because she was the first gymnast to get a 10, and she was always so dedicated. My coach actually worked with her when he was younger, and he says she was a really, really hard worker. She’s proof that all the hard work pays off.
Are you totally type A?
I think when I’m in the gym I am, but when I’m outside the gym, I’m kind of crazy and like to have fun. My room’s always a mess. I like to relax, but in the gym I’m a perfectionist.
Who’s your toughest competition?
I think all the girls on the U.S. team are really fierce competitors, but the Russians, the Chinese and the Romanians are the ones to watch out for. But you never really know ’til you’re competing who your competition is.
Event you don’t like?
The bars. I love to perform on floor, and it’s where I’m more confident, but I like challenges, so it makes me much more determined in the gym to work on that.
Body part that hurts the most after practice?
After a long, hard day, my legs feel almost dead.
What do you do about that?
I don’t finish until nine at night. I train seven to seven-and-a-half hours a day, so I’m not really that good about doing stuff for myself. I get massages three times a week, but generally, I just come home from practice, take a shower and go to sleep.
What does life after the Olympics look like?
Long-term, I definitely want to go to college, and I’d like to do something in fashion. But I’m focused on the Olympics now. And I might want to try for the 2016 Olympics.
Worst injury you ever had?
When I was 12, I had a disc problem in my back, so I was out for five months. That was pretty devastating for me to go from doing gymnastics every day to watching everyone else train while you’re just doing conditioning.
What negatively impacts your performance?
I think I’m the type of person who really needs her rest. If I don’t take a nap that really affects me for the night workout. I need a good night’s sleep, also, because that’s how your muscles recover.
Most interesting place you ever competed?
When I was 15, I went to Brazil, and we trained outside. It was so hot, and obviously there was no air-conditioning, so that was interesting.
Favorite music to use for your routine?
My floor music right now is “Hava Nagila.”
How will you celebrate when you win a medal?
Well, hopefully the first medal Team USA wins will be a team medal, and hopefully the gold. We won last year in Tokyo. But we don’t really get to celebrate because there are competitions after that.
But then you’re going to Disney World?
No. I’d go to a nice island with my family.
Think the time difference will throw you off?
No. I’ve gotten used to competing all over the world in the last few years, and we train right when we get there, so there really isn’t time to think about jetlag.
How do you get yourself to practice when you just don’t feel like it?
There are multiple times during the week when I’m really tired and don’t even want to get out of bed. But then I think about making the team and representing the USA, and that’s what really motivates me. When I feel like I can’t do it, or I keep falling, I just look to my coaches. They say, “Even if you feel like you’re dying, nobody cares, so just go out and do it.”
Olympian you’d most like to meet?
If you could have one super power, what would it be?
I’d like to fly.
How do you tune out the crowds?
I just naturally block everything out, and I can’t even hear anything because I’m so in the zone when I’m competing.
Do you have a party trick you like to do to impress people?
No. When I’m with my friends, I don’t really like to talk about gymnastics. I’m Aly, not a gymnast.
Which country has the toughest judges?
The Russian judges are pretty tough.
Endorsement you’d love to get?
I’ve always really wanted to do a Subway commercial. That would be so cool. Or a makeup ad.
Credits: Styling: Dana Moscardelli; hair: Alexander Maud/Mizu using Oribe; makeup: Michelle McGrath/Team Artist Representative; wardrobe: Ralph Lauren