That along with hard work, determination and pushing through bad days are some of the things Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman told me helped her head to Rio.
Raisman and teammate Gabby Douglas are the first U.S. gymnasts to compete in two Olympics since 2000.
I visited Aly at Brestyan’s American Gymnastics Club in Burlington yesterday to watch this 22-year-old hometown hero train for the Summer Olympics in August.
After a stellar performance at the U.S. Olympic trials in San Jose last weekend, the Needham native is now heading to Brazil, where she’ll be competing alongside some of the best gymnasts in the world.
Her longtime coach, Mihai Brestyan, told me, “We are really proud to get to the 2016 Olympics because it’s a very hard competition. … I’m very proud the way Aly handled the pressure when doing the last three competitions, including the Olympic trials.”
I asked Brestyan about his expectations and aspirations for his star Olympian: “With Aly, I’m not expecting a gold. We’re expecting a medal. The color doesn’t matter. If she helps her team and medals, then we’ve accomplished our goal.”
I asked Aly what advice she has for millions of young girls who look to athletes like herself for inspiration. She said being an Olympian is not always as exciting or as easy as it looks.
“Nothing comes easy in life. You always have to work at it. It’s important to remember that the bad days make you stronger,” she said. “I remember coming back my first year (after retirement). I didn’t think I was going to make the team. It didn’t look like it was coming together but I just stuck with it. Don’t give up. Just stick with it. And do everything you can to go after your dreams.”
Aly trains six days a week, six to seven hours per day, most days with little down time. That’s the sacrifice it takes to compete in a sport where every move is judged and points deducted for tiny mistakes.
But her coach said, “It’s not the number of the hours (one trains), it’s what you’re doing with the time you have.”
With respect to Aly’s courage and perseverance he added, “It’s very hard to come back after 1 1⁄2 years (post retirement) and having to start all over again.”
But Aly Raisman has done it with flying colors.
With respect to the Zika virus causing many athletes to drop out of the games, Aly told me, “It’s concerning … and scary. But I’m sure the USOC will do everything they can to help us out. I’ve been to Brazil before and I’m excited to go back there, it’s really beautiful, so I’m just trying to think of the positives.”
That positive attitude will make her a contender once again. She’s worked a lifetime to realize her potential and come Rio, she’s ready to pull out the stops.