Aly Raisman's Day to Shine

By Karen Rosen | Aug. 07, 2012, 4 p.m. (ET)

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LONDON -- Aly Raisman’s day just kept getting better.

Raisman started her day by taking the bronze on balance beam after an appeal of her score and then a tiebreaker went her way. Afterward, she became the first U.S. gymnast in history to win an Olympic gold medal in floor exercise.

Six days earlier, Raisman was dispirited when she lost a tiebreaker for the all-around bronze.

“It definitely felt like redemption in that I was in the same exact position,” she said. “This time it worked in my favor.”

“Justice was made and certainly psychologically it was a great moment for Aly,” added national team coordinator Martha Karolyi. “I told her I see these fantastic sparkling eyes again and I was sure that she will do a good job on floor.”

Overshadowed in the lead up to the Games by teammates Gabby Douglas and Jordyn Wieber, the 18-year-old is going home to Needham, Mass., as the most decorated American gymnast in London. She also won gold in the team event with Douglas, McKayla Maroney, Kyla Ross and Wieber.

“It was definitely hard for me after all-around to feel confident and so I’m glad that today I felt good,” Raisman said.

Teammates Gabby Douglas and Jordyn Wieber did not fare as well Tuesday, with Douglas placing seventh on balance beam after a fall and Wieber seventh on floor exercise.

On the men’s side, Danell Leyva was fifth on horizontal bar, followed by Jonathan Horton, the 2008 silver medalist, in sixth place.

Raisman said that when the beam final scores flashed, “All I could think about was I was fourth again,” she said. “I’ve been fourth a million times. It’s definitely bittersweet being in fourth. You’re excited that you’re fourth in the world but you just missed being on the podium.”

Mihai Brestyan, Raisman’s coach, put in an “inquiry,” but only after Karolyi and her husband Bela yelled to him to do it, Raisman said.

A video review by a panel of judges gave Raisman a higher score for difficulty – which in the former scoring system was called the start value – and her score was 15.066, one-tenth of a point higher than the original score.

She was then tied with Catalina Ponor, the 2004 gold medalist on beam from Romania. Raisman got the nod because of a higher execution score, and possibly, because of her coach’s lucky charm.

“I see the same situation and I already was afraid,” Brestyan said. “But I put my hand in my pocket and I pull out a twig with four…”

A four-leaf clover, given to him by the kids from his gym. He had it in his bag during the all-around competition. “Now it’s close to me, right here,” he said.

Douglas, who made history as the first African-American all-around champion, wasn’t so lucky. She said she rushed and lost her footing on a turn. Although she grabbed the beam, flipping under it, Douglas couldn’t save herself from a fall and scored 13.633.

“Even though I had a very bad ending of the chapter, the beginning was very strong,” said Douglas, who was eighth on uneven bars Monday.  “Mentally and physically I was kind of tired, but overall, it’s very good. I’m going home with two Olympic gold medals, so I’m very happy. I put my all into it.”

She added that everyone makes mistakes and she was happy she hit her routines when they most counted – in the team and all-around events. “You don’t lose; you just technically have a bad day,” Douglas said. “So we’re definitely not losers, we’re like superheroes, we do tricks like no one can do.

“Obviously it wasn’t my day to shine.”

It was Raisman’s.

 “It was the best routine I’ve ever done,” she said, “so I’m so happy that it could be here at the Olympic Games in floor finals.”

She performed to “Hava Nagila” as both U.S. and Israeli flags waved. “I wanted something that the crowd could clap to,” Raisman said. “I felt like I had nothing to lose, I already had achieved one of my goals. It was going to be my last memory from London and I just wanted to make it count. I was really calm. I could hear everyone else cheering. Normally I block everything out, but I just wanted to stay in the moment.”

As the third of eight performers, Raisman scored 15.600 -- improving from her score of 15.300 to lead the qualifying  -- and knew it was good enough for a medal. She just had to wait to find out which one.

“Of course I was nervous,” Raisman said. “I wanted them all to do well, too, because it makes it that much better if everyone does well and you still come out on top.”

As soon as Sandra Izbasa of Romania, the 2008 Olympic champion on floor, fell near the end of her routine, photographers turned away from the mat and swarmed around Raisman.

Ponor, the 2004 Olympic floor champion who had earlier lost the bronze on beam to Raisman, won the silver, scoring 15.200.

“I think it was fantastic,” Karolyi said, “just because I always was talking about Aly Raisman being the most disciplined, the hardest working gymnast and definitely her hard work paid off.”

Wieber struggled on floor, stepping out of bounds and scoring 14.500. Her coach, John Geddert, said after the competition that the 2011 world champion has had pain in her right leg since mid-July and might have a stress fracture.

“I knew that it was going to have to take a lot of details in the routine with all the landings,” Wieber said.  “I did step out of bounds, and I knew at that point that it wouldn’t be enough. I tried to still fight through and finish the routine strong.”

While Wieber’s Olympics did not go as she had hoped, for her best friend Raisman, “It definitely went better than I thought it would so I’m really happy,” she said “It’s sad that the Olympics are over, because you think about it so long. It definitely went by very quick so it’s crazy that it’s over.”

Karen Rosen is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org. This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies.
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