Olympian Aly Raisman takes on DWTS
Aly Raisman is going for the gold -- again.
The 18-year-old was the captain of the gold-medal-winning U.S. women's gymnastics team at the 2012 Summer Olympics. She also took home a gold medal in the floor exercise and bronze in the balance beam.
This time around, she's learning to master a different type of floor exercise.
Raisman is a contestant on this season's "Dancing with the Stars," and even though she loves freestyle dancing with her friends at home in Massachusetts -- to pop and hip-hop music, she says with a nervous giggle -- she doesn't feel she has the jump on any of the other celebrities.
She is partnered with Mark Ballas and is perfectly fine with letting him be her captain, with the hopes of taking home the mirror ball trophy.
espnW: What made you want to do "Dancing with the Stars" this season?
Aly Raisman: I have always been a huge fan of the show, and I just figured, "Hey, why not?!" I think it's really fun. I love to perform, and also I love dancing. I'm so glad that I did it because it's also a huge challenge for me. It's fun to try something new and also do something that's out of my comfort zone.
espnW: What's harder -- training for dancing or training for gymnastics?
AR: I don't really think you can even really compare them. They're both so different. With gymnastics, it was a lot of hours just like dancing is, but right now, it's just focusing on one dance. With gymnastics, there are more events, so you're always doing different stuff. Here it's more about not only learning the dance but also about having fun and really showing your personality and building that bond with your partner. So it's really different, but I love it.
espnW: Are you already thinking about how to incorporate what you're learning now with what you do in gymnastics?
AR: I will definitely have some cool dance moves from the show. I think that's really the only thing I can learn from the show -- and maybe be more expressive in my floor routines.
espnW: Are you training for gymnastics at all right now?
AR: No. I've been dancing all day. When we [last rehearsed] I was at the studio literally from, like, 9:30 to … I left at, like, 5 o'clock. So it's like literally all day.
espnW: What's your next event in gymnastics?
AR: After this show is over, I'm going to be in Israel for a little bit in the summer, and then I'm going to begin training again, probably in September. So I'm thinking that hopefully the championships, which will be in the summer, will probably be my first competition back. So it'll be in 2014.
espnW: Did you know who Dorothy Hamill was before the show?
AR: I did know who she was. I had never met her before. But we've been talking a lot, and I can't wait for us to be able to share our Olympic experiences together. We haven't had a chance yet. So far we've really only talked about, like, each other's shoes and fashion!
espnW: You scored very well the first week. How did that feel?
AR: I was really, really excited about the scores. That was actually Mark's goal for me. He said he would be really, really happy for me if I got three 7s. So I'm excited as long as Mark's happy and the judges are happy, then I'm good. I'm happy with where I am right now. I have so much room to improve. … That's what motivates me to do better, and I just want to show I'm improving and working hard each and every week.
espnW: What's the difference in waiting for the scores to come in with "Dancing with the Stars" versus when you were over in London?
AR: I wasn't really nervous to get the judges' scores [last] week. I think I was just so caught up in the moment and so relieved it was done and that I did as best as I could. In the Olympics, you're competing with girls all over the world and you're fighting for that Olympic gold medal, so it's a little bit more pressure and a little bit more intense, whereas here, it doesn't really matter where you fall at this point. It matters later on in the competition, so I just wanted to go out there and do the best that I could. But in London, of course, you're nervous and then you're even more nervous for the score to come up!
espnW: Do you think being a gymnast gives you a little bit of an edge in the competition?
AR: I think the only thing that really helps with athletes in this competition is the fact that we're willing to put in the hours and we have a good work ethic. I've been having trouble doing things really fast. It's very different, and the footwork is completely different.
espnW: Why should espnW readers vote for you to win this season? Make your pitch.
AR: I would love to stay on the show because I'm having a blast. I think it's really fun. I love to perform, and it's just such an amazing and unique opportunity. I'm just so happy to be here, and I love dancing and I love trying new things!
The first results show of the season airs tonight at 9 ET on ABC. Josh Groban and Icona Pop perform.