At the ripe old age of 22, Aly Raisman, reportedly nicknamed “Grandma” by her teammates, is headed back to the Olympics . She becomes the first female Jewish gymnast to compete in back-to-back Olympics since Kerri Strug (’92, ’96). At the London Olympics in 2012, Raisman, a native of Needham, Massachusetts, earned gold for her unforgettable performance in the floor exercise.

Raisman will join teammates Gabby Douglas (all-around gold in London), Simone Biles, Laurie Hernandez, and Madison Kocian in Rio.

At the press conference following her placement on the team, Raisman said, “We’re very excited, but at the same time, it’s kind of like you turn the page and now you focus for the Olympics, ’cause we know we still have a job to do.” Behind the scenes, Raisman and her teammates showed a different kind of excitement away behind the scenes:

Raisman has kept busy since her last Olympic appearance, taking home gold medals in floor exercise at 2015 U.S National Championship and as part of a team at the 2015 World Championships in Glasgow (not to mention a fourth place showing on Dancing With the Stars, and posing nude for ESPN’s 2015 Body Issue). This year, after strong showings in all the major international tournaments, she placed third at the U.S. Olympic trials, which secured her a place on the five-woman team that’s being touted for its pedigree and racial diversity.

Raisman’s often spoke proudly of her Judaism. She attended the 2013 Maccabiah games as a special guest and, until recently, used “Hava Nagila” as her floor music. She also spoke at the 2013 JCC Film Festival, telling the crowd her interactions with groups like Friends of the IDF had helped her forge a deeper bond with Israel.

A strong performance in Brazil seems likely for Raisman, one of the most decorated gymnasts in the world. The Rio Summer Olympics begin on August 5. In the meantime, watch Raisman’s parents try to keep their cool during the London Olympics.

Previous: Form and Function: Aly Raisman

 





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