The Interview: Aly Raisman

This summer the Needham native dominated the Olympics. Was it the veteran gymnast’s final act, or is she just warming up?
aly raisman interview boston magazine

Photograph by Jae C. Hong/AP Images

Aly Raisman may be the most successful woman in the Bay State, if not the hardest-working. Since winning one gold and two silver medals at the Summer Olympics in Rio, her schedule has been a nonstop parade of star-studded appearances, including sharing a stage with Beyoncé and hanging out with Big Papi. Now, she and her teammates are on the 36-city Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions, which will have them twisting, vaulting, and flipping through the TD Garden on November 13. But before Raisman returns home to a hero’s welcome, we caught up with her to learn how she manages her competitive spirit—and hear if the elder stateswoman of U.S. gymnastics has enough gas in the tank to do it all again in 2020.

You’re clearly a competitive person. How have you learned to harness that spirit so it doesn’t entirely consume you?

It kind of seems like it’s life or death when you’re competing, but my parents always taught me that the most important thing is to be a good person and to have good character, rather than being on top of the podium. Before I compete, I get nervous and I always think about that. No matter what happens, I still have my family and my friends that love me and care about me.

Has life after the Olympics been crazier this time around than it was after London in 2012?

It’s a little bit crazier because it’s my second time competing at the Olympics. But my teammates and I have been having so much fun. I threw the first pitch at a Red Sox game and I got a standing ovation. It’s crazy, all the support I’ve been getting. It’s incredible and hard to put into words.

Were you nervous throwing out the first pitch at Fenway?

A little bit, but it doesn’t compare to competing at the Olympics. And at the same time, it didn’t really matter if I did a good job or not. It was just enjoyable to be in that atmosphere. Boston is definitely the best sports city in the world. I’ve done shows all over the country, and Boston has always been the most welcoming. It was exciting to be able to be there with the Red Sox, especially David Ortiz.

I’ve read that you study footage of your routines, but you won’t watch footage of competitions that you didn’t do well in. Is that true?

Yes.

So how do you learn from your mistakes?

You can feel it. I know exactly what I did wrong, what I messed up, and I just feel it. At the Olympics, in the first day of competition, I had a mistake on the beam and the next two competitions after that I fixed it—I didn’t grovel. I watch footage when I do well because that’s the only thing that should be in your mind when you’re competing in a big competition like that.

What’s the best souvenir you came back with from Brazil that’s not an Olympic medal?

I got my sister a bunch of T-shirts and some towels because we have a house on the Cape. So I guess if a towel counts—I’ll count it.

Which city had a better Olympic Village: Rio or London?

I think Rio. We got to do more walking around in the village. We played Ping-Pong one day. But London was really fun, too. I think we met more athletes at this Olympics because my teammates like Simone [Biles] and Laurie [Hernandez]—they’re not shy at all.

What’s in frequent rotation on your playlist?

It kind of depends. Some days I’m definitely more of an old soul. I love Celine Dion. My dad and I love singing to her songs—it’s kind of our thing. And I love Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Jason Derulo, and Trey Songz. So I kind of listen to everything.

Do you have any thoughts on the Taylor Swift/Kanye West drama?

No, we were in Brazil so we didn’t really pay attention.

Who’s your favorite athlete that’s not a gymnast?

David Ortiz, because he’s such a nice person.

What’s the most underrated emoji?

Hmm. Maybe the emoji with the sunglasses.

Since you’re performing here at the TD Garden in November, what Thanksgiving dessert takes the gold in your house?

My favorite desserts are cheesecake, carrot cake, and chocolate cake, but I obviously don’t have all three of them, so I’ll pick whichever one I’m in the mood for.


Chris Sweeney Chris Sweeney, Senior Editor at Boston Magazine csweeney@bostonmagazine.com


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