Moment gets the best of Raisman
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Part of the video presentations that entertained fans between rotations at the U.S. Olympic gymnastic trials this weekend included a clip from the 2008 trials in Philadelphia, with host (and former gymnast) John Macready interviewing some young gymnasts in the crowd.
He introduced one in particular to the arena. It was Aly Raisman.
Four years later, Raisman walked onto the floor at HP Pavilion, a bouquet in her hand, with just mere moments to process her selection to the Olympic team.
As she made her way up to the platform with her newly minted Olympic teammates, she put her hand over her mouth to help hold back her tears.
"I was really, really emotional, way more than I thought I would be," the 18-year-old Massachusetts native said. "I thought I would tear up a little bit, but I didn't think I would hyperventilate like that. I couldn't even breathe."
Realizing your life's goal can do that.
Raisman was sitting in the holding room with the 14 other athletes who competed over two days in San Jose, listening to music, awaiting their fate. Raisman, consistent and steady throughout the entire weekend, said she felt mostly confident, definitely not cocky.
"I was actually a little bit nervous that I might not make it because I messed my vault up a little bit," Raisman said. "But I was so happy with bars and beam and floor and I just tried to stay positive."
And then teammate Kyla Ross -- who also ended up on the team -- said the thing that calmed the last of Raisman's butterflies.
"She told me that I couldn't have done anything more, that I did everything I could," Raisman said.
When U.S. national team coordinator Marta Karolyi came into the room to announce the five-member team and three alternates, everybody, including Karolyi, broke down. Raisman, the girl who watched the 1996 team win gold in Atlanta over and over on video when she was younger, barely had time to hug her coaches before the confetti began to fall in the arena.
But the celebration will end quickly for Raisman and her teammates, who will have a week to go home before gathering in Texas for a national team camp and then head off to London.
If Gabby Douglas brings the mega-watt smile to London and Jordyn Wieber packs the hype, Raisman will be the girl with the proverbial lunch pail, the worker who shows up and, in the words of U.S. team coach Marta Karolyi, "does her job."
Raisman, who finished fourth in the all-around at worlds in 2011, brings a steady, mentally tough presence to the floor, and will be perhaps the most experienced gymnast on the squad.
"I love her," Karolyi said of Raisman, who twice has finished third in the national championships and finished third overall Sunday night behind Douglas and Wieber. "She is very disciplined. She leaves her heart in her training and her competition."
Karolyi said she also appreciates Raisman's consistency, her unfailing ability to perform at a high level, something the U.S. team will need if it intends to win gold in London.
"My coaches have told me to always be consistent, because that's what they are looking for," Raisman said. "They are looking for people who can show consistency and be up in the three-up, three-count [phase of team competition]. So I strive to be in the top three in as many events as possible."
Raisman's coach, Mihai Brestyan, said he was confident of her spot on the team.
"She is somebody that you can trust in competition," Brestyan said. "She has proved this in 2010 worlds, in 2011. You can put your money on her in team competition all the time."
But he did sense that she was feeling the pressure heading into the trials.
"People are talking, the girls are reading things on the Internet," Brestyan said. "A lot of talking about what people think. She is still very young. You are supposed to do your job. That's the important part."
Raisman remembers that video interview with Macready back in 2008, one that turned out to be a prelude to a much bigger moment in her gymnastics life.
"I remember when he said, 'Maybe you'll be down there some day.'" Raisman said. "And I knew I would be down there. But I didn't know it would be this special."