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Needham welcomes home Olympic hero Raisman

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By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor

People from all across the Bay State gathered in Needham Center on Saturday morning as the town welcomed home Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman following her incredible success at the 2016 Rio Games.

Raisman was given a hero’s welcome by many of her close friends and family, not to mention hundreds of fans who had gathered outside of Town Hall to celebrate her two individual silver medals and team gold medal for her performances in Brazil.

Amongst the many who gathered to honor Raisman at the “Rally For Aly” was local radio personality and fellow Needham High graduate, Mike Reilly, who called up 10 young and local gymnasts to the platform to ask Raisman advice on how to reach such great accomplishment through gymnastics.

“The best advice I would give is that the harder days are what make you stronger,” she said. “If you always had a perfect day or a good day, you would never be able to improve.”

After thanking all those who came out and supported her at the rally, Raisman also took time to thank the people most important to her and the ones who sacrificed the most in order to help her succeed.

“I want to thank my parents - they’re in the room with me now - for all their support,” said Raisman. “I’m sorry for putting them through all the stress!”

The 22-year-old six-time Olympic medalist also had an interesting take when asked about her thoughts on the future of gymnastics and the way the sport is progressing, both locally and nationally.

“I feel like we’ve pretty much pushed the boundaries and maybe they will actually decrease (the level of difficulty) a little bit when they make the new code of points,” said Raisman.

“They (the IOC) change the code of points after every Olympics, and I don’t think gymnastics can really get any harder. I think they are focusing more on the artistry component and making sure that there is a lot more dance and I know that they like the power of flexibility. It will be interesting to see how it changes and where the sport goes from here for gymnasts at all levels.”

Before returning to Needham on Saturday, Raisman was honored at Fenway Park on Friday night by the Red Sox and threw out the honorary first pitch to none other than legendary designated hitter, David Ortiz.

“I talked to David the night before,” said Raisman. “I texted him saying that I would be at Fenway and he immediately called me and we planned it all out. He’s awesome.”

Following her first pitch, Raisman placed her medals around Ortiz’s neck and the two posed for pictures. Raisman later spoke to WEEI’s Joe Castiglione, Tim Neverett and Lou Merloni in the booth during the game, where she stated that she is still unsure of what she will be doing next, but said that school is definitely on the agenda.

“I’m not really sure what is next,” said Raisman. “I definitely want to go to college, but for now, I am just living in the moment and enjoying all of this. I’m really thankful and I couldn’t be happier.”

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