Had Raisman remained an amateur, she likely would have gone to Florida, perennially a top-seven NCAA team.
“I know all the girls at Florida and they love it there so much,’’ she said. “But not a lot of people get the opportunity to be a professional gymnast and be able to have sponsors. I love fashion, so it’s cool to be sponsored by them.’’
Future looks busy
Future looks busy
If Raisman wants to continue on to the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, the academics-gymnastics balancing act will present itself again with more time-and-distance complications.
“You can’t sit in two chairs,’’ said Brestyan. “You have to choose one of them.’’
Sacramone tried to do both when she was at Brown and all but wore out her personal transmission shuttling between Providence and Burlington. As it is, Raisman spends two hours a day commuting between home and gym in her Land Rover. But instead of sitting in class, she is able to spend her weekdays in the gym upgrading her start values and polishing her execution to prepare for the competition schedule.
Raisman’s date book includes the American Cup in Madison Square Garden March 3, the Pacific Rim championships in Everett, Wash., two weeks later, the nationals in St. Louis in early June and the trials.
“It’s important to stay in the moment, but also it’s important for me to always keep the Olympics in the back of my mind because it’s so close now,’’ she said. “I can’t even believe it’s six months away.’’
Raisman has been thinking about the Games ever since she was 8 when she constantly watched the video of the Magnificent Seven winning gold in Atlanta. By then, she already had been in the gym for half a dozen years after starting with Mommy and Me classes.
After watching the Americans win the silver medal in 2004, Raisman turned up at Brestyan’s, where it soon was apparent that she had the goods.
“You can see right away,’’ the coach said. “I can build in my mind, ‘OK, that’s the future.’ ’’
Next in line
Next in line
If the future arrived faster than most people might have imagined, it seemed to be right on schedule for Raisman, who figured that if Sacramone could make the team, she could, too.
“I kind of knew that I was going to be there someday,’’ she said. “Not being cocky, but I just wanted it so bad. I would get mad at people who said, ‘I don’t know if you can do that.’ I’d be like, ‘Yes I can.’
“I’ve always liked to be that person that proves people wrong.’’
Although the leap to the global stage in 2010 was a bit abrupt, Raisman made the all-around final and just missed a floor medal. Last year, when Sacramone hurt herself warming up at the world meet in Tokyo and had to withdraw, Raisman stepped in as team leader.
“Surprised? I wasn’t surprised,’’ said Brestyan. “Aly was educated under the same advice as Alicia. That’s what I put in their minds all the time. You have to keep first the team.’’
USA Gymnastics follows the same “next woman up’’ theme that the Karolyis used in the Nadia Comaneci days back in Romania.
“After Alicia was hurt, Aly was the only girl who ever participated in a world championship,’’ Martha Karolyi said. “Automatically as a teammate, you look at someone who already was there. Aly has a very good nature, she communicates well and always has an open personality.’’
Raisman is the big sister not only at home to a brother and two sisters but she also plays that role in the gym in Sacramone’s absence.
“Right now I’m the oldest one in the gym, so I think of the girls here as my little sisters,’’ she said. “To be able to help them is very special and it means a lot that they look up to me.’’
Though Raisman hasn’t been inside her high school all year, her friends make a point of staying in touch.
“I’ve actually been surprised because my social life’s been getting better,’’ she said. “Everyone makes more of an effort to see me because I don’t go to school. People text me and it’s nice having them be so supportive.’’
At the traditional Thanksgiving game at Wellesley, Needham’s powder-puff football team let Raisman take a victory lap with them.
“That was nice because I couldn’t play, obviously,’’ she said. “If I didn’t do gymnastics, I would have played, but I didn’t want to risk it. They said they were all bruised and got killed and it was freezing, so . . .’’
There’s enough risk indoors, where one slipped hand or splattered salto can make Olympus vanish.
“It’s scary, but she seems to do OK with it,’’ said Lynn, who was a gymnast at Newton South High School. “She seems not to let the pressure get to her. She knows how to put it to the side.’’Continued...