As Needham’s Aly Raisman took to the Olympic stage again Tuesday, winning a gold medal for her floor routine and a bronze in the balance beam, residents across town were crossing their fingers for their hometown hero.
Shop owners and town employees gathered in small groups to watch her two live performances on the beam and floor Tuesday morning. Some gathered around high-definition televisions; some looked up Raisman’s scores online; and others tried to shield themselves from the information, waiting instead to watch NBC’s taped broadcast later in the evening.
Even a stranger to the town would notice the ubiquitous town pride, as banners and signs adorned storefronts and town sidewalks. “We are all so proud of you Aly!,” said one. “Congratulations Aly Raisman for winning the gold!” said another.
“The idea of a hometown girl making the Olympics is huge,” said Maureen Fitzgerald, co-owner of Taylor’s Stationary on Highland Avenue. “Needham has really gotten behind her and supported her. I’m hugely impressed at her ability to keep it together under national pressure.”
At Needham Town Hall Tuesday morning, a handful of town employees gathered around the large-screen television just before noon, chatting about the Olympics and their day’s work while waiting for Raisman to perform her floor exercise.
But when the Needham native took to the mat, the whole room fell silent. After her first running combination, flipping through the air in her red, white and blue leotard, a collective gasp let out and the women watching started yelling out encouragements.
“That sets the tone,” one viewer said aloud, while another exclaimed, “Oh man, that was beautiful.” Needham Town manager Kate Fitzpatrick joined in, announcing she had goose bumps.
“Whatever happens, she was beautiful, and it was a beautiful thing to watch,” Fitzpatrick said.
As Raisman collected her gold medal for her floor routine, the town employees squealed.
“It’s nice to see someone who works so hard succeed and achieve what they want, and having her be from Needham is all that more exciting,” said Sandy Cincotta, a town support services manager. “She looked effortless, and so happy – it looks like she was born to do this.”
Even though Raisman did not place last week in the women’s all-around finals, tying for third place and ousted in a tiebreaker, town employees gathered around their television this morning as well to watch the Needham native once again fight for the bronze in a tiebreaker on the balance beam.
This time, Raisman won the tiebreaker against Romania's Catalina Ponor.
“She looked fabulous and very strong,” Fitzpatrick said.
Corina Andriescu, a Taylor’s Stationary worker and Needham High School’s 2012 class president, said she and some of Raisman’s other friends are planning to watch the Olympic performance later Tuesday night.
“It’s tough to wait because it’s easy to be given away – I was working all day and people come in here and talk about it,” she said.
Andriescu, who said she has known Raisman since the sixth grade, said she felt very proud of her friend.
“It’s so weird to see her on national TV, but we can still see all her mannerisms – like giving hugs and pep talks,” Andriescu said. “It’s the same Aly we’ve grown up with.”
When describing Raisman’s personality, Andriescu laughed.
“She’s so humble, so cute, and so sweet,” she said. “The couple times I’ve seen her this year – because she’s been so busy training – she’s the same bubbly person I’ve known since middle school. She’s so easy to talk to, and we love catching up and gossiping.”
Lisa Silverman, owner of Lisa’s Boutique on Highland Avenue, said when she went to the Red Sox game last week, she was pleasantly surprised to see a tribute to Raisman appear on the Jumbo Tron.
“I’m very proud of the town – I’ve had my store here for 19 years and I’ve grown up here, and it’s cool to see Needham is kind of famous now,” Silverman said.
Silverman said that even though Raisman did not place last week, it did not matter to her.
“It doesn’t take away that her team got the gold,” Silverman said. “She was the captain of the team, and the team won. It’s fabulous.”
Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at email@example.com