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Kidsday: Talking with gymnast Aly Raisman

Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman (center) with Kidsday reporters

Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman (center) with Kidsday reporters (l) Jillian Parker, and Kristen Nicolino, both 10, from Dix Hills at the American Girl Place in Manhattan. (Aug. 28, 2012) Credit: Newsday Pat Mullooly

We talked with Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman when the gymnast visited American Girl Place in Manhattan last month. She was promoting the new American Girl doll, Caroline.

What were your feelings when you did your final tumbling pass in the team finals?

I knew that we won the gold medal because we all hit all our routines, and it was a really special moment that all of my teammates and I could share together. Just running on the floor and celebrating with them was really cool.

What did it feel like to win a gold medal?

Winning a gold medal is the best feeling ever because you're the Olympic champions -- all the hard work and everything you did your whole life was worth it, and it's just a really great feeling to know your dreams came true.

What was it like to go to the Olympics with some of your great friends?

It was so amazing. I love all the girls so much. We're all really great friends, so it was just a really good team bonding.

What are you going to do once your gymnastics career is over?

I definitely want to go to college; I'm not sure where yet. But I also want to do something with fashion. So we'll see.

How old were you when you made the national Olympic team?

I made the national team when I was 15 years old.

Are you friends with any of the athletes from the different countries?

I do know a lot of the other gymnasts from different countries. Sometimes, they would come in and train with us, especially last year, just to help prepare for the Olympics. And they're all really nice, and even the Russian girls, I'm friends with . . . they know a little bit of English, so they're nice, too.

When did you start doing gymnastics, and what made you think of gymnastics?

I was 2 when I started gymnastics. My mom did it in high school. So she wanted me to try it, and I started with Mommy and Me classes, and I've loved it ever since.

How many hours do you train a day?

Up to 71/2 hours a day.

Do you have any pre-meet rituals?

I'm normally rooming with Jordyn [Wieber], so we always like to take our time getting ready and listen to music and do hair and makeup together. Just try to relax and not think about it so much.

What was it like to be the first gymnastics team to all be on the cover of Sports Illustrated?

I didn't know that, but . . . [it's] so exciting. We had a lot of fun doing the photo shoot. We did it in [Huntsville,] Texas at the [National Team's training center].

What is it like to do some of the hardest gymnastics in the world?

Doing some other skills that I do -- it takes a lot of hard work, it takes a lot of years to practice, but to be able to compete . . . in the Olympics is such an honor, and I'm glad that it went well because like I said, I've worked so hard my whole life.

Do you like being recognized in public?

Being recognized in public is definitely something I'm not used to, but it's just an honor that people know who I am, and I'm excited. I love meeting new people. So it's a lot of fun, and I'm really excited to be . . . at American Girl doll and to meet all the people . . . They've been waiting in line for a really long time.

Where do you keep your gold medal?

I keep my gold medal in a safe.

Do you love your parents cheering for you?

I do. My parents are really funny when they were cheering . . . I didn't know how nervous they got when they were watching me. But they were definitely more nervous than I was.

Do you think winning the team gold medal at the 2011 World Championship gave the team an advantage?

I think winning the team gold medal gave us a lot of confidence going into the Olympics, and of course, we had that extra pressure going in because everyone expected us to win because we won by four points. But I think it was basically the same team except for Kyla [Ross]. Kyla had a lot of experience, so we were all excited and wanted to do the same things as we did the year before.

What advice would you give a gymnast who wants to be in the Olympics?

The advice I would give is just always believe in yourself, and to work hard and never give up and just to be patient.

Are you going to continue to be in gymnastics, and if so, will you be trying out for the 2016 Olympics?

I definitely want to continue gymnastics. I started my first international competition in Brazil, and so I would like to start in Brazil and end in Brazil.

What is it like to be the best in the world?

Saying that I'm the Olympic champion on floor is the best feeling ever because that's been my dream for so long. My two coaches . . . and I, we worked so hard together on putting the whole routine together and figuring out what tumbling passes to put in, and I've done about a million floor routines. So to be able to hit the routine of my life at the Olympics in floor finals is the best feeling.

Was there anything before the Olympics that made you think of not winning the gold?

I think there was a lot of really hard days, but I just used the Olympics as motivation, and just thinking about not winning floor made me motivated to do better even when I was really exhausted.

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