NEEDHAM—Thousands of fans Sunday packed a Needham parade ground for a glimpse of the town’s Olympic star, Aly Raisman.
Seated atop a yellow Lamborghini convertible that rolled from Needham Town Hall to a baseball field in front of Needham High School, Raisman smiled and waved, prompting squeals of delight from children seated on parents’ shoulders.
The captain of the US women’s gymnastics team, Raisman won two gold medals and a bronze medal in London, a performance that springboarded the 18-year-old from a hard-working local athlete to an instantaneous national celebrity.
“It’s been the best summer of my life,” Raisman said, thanking her supporters. “I hope I made you all proud.”
Since returning from the Olympics, Raisman has kept a trying appearance schedule: She has clocked cameos on the circuit of New York talk shows, and thrown out the ceromonial first pitch Saturday at Fenway Park.
“We’re speechless,” said Raisman’s father, at a rally on a baseball field behind Needham High School. “We can’t thank you enough. We’re so happy,” he said. The multitudes of admirers crowded the parade route, some for an hour or more, for a brief glimpse of the celebrated Olympian.
Among the youngsters whooping and hollering was Isabella Sylvester, a 10-year-old gymnast from Stoneham. “She’s a big role model in gymnastics,” said Sylvester, who hopes to compete in the Olympics some day. “She doesn’t get upset. She keeps on going.”
Last week, the gymnast also signed a one-year endorsement deal with Poland Spring, the Maine-based bottled water company. The schedule gets busier, too. Soon she will join her Olympic teammates on a national celebration tour.