Q&A: Aly Raisman

These days, Aly Raisman needs little introduction. After scoring three medals in London—including golds for team all-around and her floor exercise—Needham’s Olympic hero has joined up with the Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions, which swings through the TD Garden on November 11. We caught up with her on the rare day off at home

olympic gymnast aly raisman

Aly Raisman photo by Joe Seer / Shutterstock.com

So when you’re in Needham, what do you like doing?

Right now, I’m pretty much staying home and resting. I have a photo shoot at my house this morning, and after my sister gets out of school, I’m going to go bat mitzvah dress-shopping with her. It’s so much traveling, and I like being in my house because I’m literally never here.

It doesn’t really make sense that human bodies can flip and move in the air like yours can. Have you always been able to do that? 

All the skills that I do take years of hard work—it doesn’t come easy. So it’s a lot of conditioning and flexibility and a lot of mental confidence, because sometimes I’m scared to do those skills.

In gymnastics, there are always multiple events going on at once in the arena. How do you tune everything else out?

Well, we’re used to that. It’s worse when it’s one at a time, because it’s so quiet. I personally like it when it’s a little bit louder, because you don’t feel like everyone in the stands is watching you. Sometimes if you’re too focused on yourself, it makes you overthink everything.

I mean no disrespect here to Kellogg’s—I would never insult Tony the Tiger—but how do you get up for these shows coming off the Olympics? 

I still get nervous, just because there are a lot of people who come to see us. I still do the floor routine. I want to do a good job and show everybody that I can still do it. It’s also fun to be out there and just enjoy it and not worry about judges.

Will this be your first time performing back in Boston?

Yeah, I haven’t performed or competed in Boston in a long time, so I’m really excited about it. I’m sure a ton of people from Needham will be going, and also my teammates and all of the gymnasts in Boston. So that should be a lot of fun. I wish my school friends were home, but they’re all at college.

You have no idea how happy you made my mom and all of her nice Jewish friends by doing your floor routine to “Hava Nagila.” How many cheek pinches have you gotten since then?

I didn’t expect so much support from the Jewish community, so it’s been really exciting. I have a lot of Jewish grandmas coming up to me and acting like I’m their granddaughter. When I was doing an event at a Jewish Community Center, there was a little kid trying to get my autograph, and then a grandma just came in front and sat there and talked to me and my mom for, like, 10 minutes. I was like, “Okay, I don’t really know you.” She kissed us both on the cheek.

How much media training did you go through before the games?

I actually didn’t get any media training. I don’t think I know of anyone who got any. I just try to say things that really mean a lot to me.

Is it weird seeing your name now in all the gossip pages? I think the Herald tried to marry you off to Tyler Seguin at one point.

Yeah, I’m sure. Everyone thinks that we’re dating, but I haven’t even met him. I actually don’t read that stuff.

What’s the strangest thing that’s happened to you since London?

Guys say really interesting things to me. They’ll give me gifts and letters and phone numbers and ask me out on dates. On Twitter, I get marriage proposals. Someone came up to me, he was probably a teenager, and asked me if I prefer strawberries or blueberries. I said strawberries and he goes, “Okay, I just wanted to know what to make you with your pancakes in the morning.” So that was pretty creepy.

That is outstandingly creepy. How many marriage proposals are you up to?

I’ve only gotten one face-to-face—I got proposed to with a Ring Pop. I said no, but I took the Ring Pop.