“It all comes down to Aly Raisman,” the sportscaster declared, as U.S. women’s Olympic gymnast Alexandra (Aly) Raisman took to the mat during the team final competition.
A string-heavy version of “Hava Nagila” flooded through the arena as she began to flip. The floor routine was executed with near perfection, and as Raisman landed her last flying split, her face broke out in tears of joy.
The flawless routine ensured the U.S. team’s lead. The gold was theirs.
The U.S. team’s score of 183.596 was five points higher than the silvered Russia, causing many to conjecture that this may be the best U.S. gymnastics team in history.
The gold medal is just the latest step in the narrative Raisman has created for herself this past week. Raisman had, until last year’s world championships, been performing almost entirely in the background of the team. Training alongside Olympic veteran Alicia Sacramone at her hometown gym in Massachusetts and reigning world champion Jordyn Wieber — Raisman was just one of the many smiling, leaping faces in the American gymnastics scene.
And then, veteran Alicia Sacramone tore her Achilles’ tendon, thrusting Raisman into the spotlight as the new captain. She persevered, and led the team to a gold. That was the world’s first introduction to this agile teenager. Most of the pre-Olympics hype had revolved around Gabby Douglas and Wieber, the two predicted to nab the spots for the individual all-around competition. The athletes competed on Sunday for two spots in a qualifying round, with shocking results.
Though Raisman was tailing behind at third during the first three quarters of the qualifiers, an out of bounds step by both Douglas and Wieber during their floor exercises plunged their scores significantly. This, in conjunction with a near-perfect floor routine by Raisman, caused her to jump ahead in the rankings. The Hava Nagila routine catapulted her to first place, thereby ousting Wieber, the reigning world champion, from qualifying for the all-around medal round.