Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman’s father Rick returned to Needham Wednesday weary but proud, and began to tend to the mundane tasks of picking up the family dogs, putting his other three kids back on a normal schedule, and going back to his job with an insurance company.
“Let me tell you, I’m a little run down right now, but it was all worth it,” he said in an interview with the Globe. “We were already gone for a number of days, so it was time to get back.”
In the whirlwind of the last few weeks, Aly Raisman, the team captain, won two gold medals and a bronze in the gymnastics competition. Rick and Lynn Raisman became internet sensations when their exhuberant cheering for their daughter was captured on video. Friends in her hometown of Needham, from the rabbi of her synagogue in Newton to kids in the gyms where she got her start, have proudly watched her every move.
But as Aly Raisman became one of the most recognizable faces of this year’s Olympic games, her father said that he, his wife and Aly’s three siblings only saw her face-to-face for a total of about 10 minutes as their eldest daughter led the Olympics team in London.
“We got to see her one day after the team won gold for five minutes when we met them at the Today Show,” he said. “Then last night, they had a little reception at the USA House, so we saw her for few minutes there.”
For Rick Raisman, the successes are a proud payoff for a life that began when they enrolled Aly in her first gymnastics class when she was just 18 months old and continued with workouts that had the family making as many as eight trips a day to a Burlington gym from their Needham home.
Raisman said his daughter worked tirelessly toward her Olympic goals, training for 35 hours and six days per week. She gave up applying for college and attending her senior year of high school – she graduated from Needham High this June after completing a year of online courses.
“When she was 15 and made the national team, she was like, ‘Maybe I am good enough to do this,’” Raisman said. “She has not only the talent, but the need to understand what’s going on mentally, which go hand in hand.”
Looking back, he seemed a bit baffled at the blur of the past few weeks.
“She was always really good, but when I heard she was going to be the captain of the US Olympic team, and then they won the team gold…” he said, trailing off. “It’s like with any kid growing up, you want them to have fun and enjoy what they’re doing. As time went on, she just kept working and working, and got better and better.”
He said he hopes that she will try for the gold again. “Hopefully we’ll be doing it again in 2016 - that would be great,” he said.
“I think while all these opportunities are happening now, she’ll probably take advantage of what makes the most sense for her,” he said. “She can always go to college even five years from now.”
Rick Raisman chuckled at the video he saw Wednesday showing a man sitting behind the pair at Aly’s gold-medal individual floor performance become agitated with Lynn and Rick Raisman’s cheering - at one point telling the Raismans to sit down, tapping Aly’s father’s shoulder.
“I didn’t know it at the time, but I remember feeling something on my shoulder,” Raisman said. “It was just one of those moments, when she hit that floor routine - nothing else mattered then. We’re actually pretty laid back, but at that moment, everything is so magnified and so incredible and crucial that you just kind of get locked in.”
Aly Raisman and her mother are expected to fly back to Massachusetts after the closing ceremonies in London next week. Rick Raisman said his daughter will “take five minutes off” before joining the other American Olympic gymnasts for a 40-city country-wide tour starting at the end of August.
“I think she’ll have fun because all the girls get along great, and it’s not as intense as competing,” he said.
Wednesday, he saw the signs and banners adorning Needham storefronts and on sidewalks proclaiming, “We are all so proud of you Aly!” and “Congratulations Aly Raisman for winning the gold!”
“I just drove through Needham for the first time, and saw a bunch of things, which is really great,” he said. “It’s nice to see the community is behind her and recognizes her accomplishments.”
And Aly Raisman appreciates her parents’ support, too.
After she won the gold and bronze medals for individual floor and balance beam on Tuesday, she tweeted, “Thank you to my amazing parents! Love them so much. So thankful for their love & support all these years. I couldn’t ask for better parents.”
Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org