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Aly Raisman Dishes On Dancing

By Brandon Penny | May 24, 2013, 11:02 p.m. (ET)

Aly Raisman and professional dance partner Mark Ballas pose
during a promotional shoot for Dancing with the Stars.
Aly Raisman and Mark Ballas rehearse prior to the March 18, 2013
premiere of season 16 of Dancing with the Stars.
Raisman and Ballas perform an Afro-jazz on week nine (May 13,
2013) of Dancing with the Stars.
Raisman and Ballas perform a samba on week 10 (May 20, 2013)
of Dancing with the Stars.

When Aly Raisman placed fourth in the all-around competition at the London 2012 Olympic Games, it meant the devastation of just missing out on a medal she had worked towards for years. When Aly Raisman placed fourth on season 16 of Dancing with the Stars, it was different. For once in her life, there was no pressure and, according to Raisman, this time it truly was all about the journey.

Raisman, the most decorated American gymnast in London (with three medals), spoke to TeamUSA.org Thursday morning – just 36 hours after her 10-week dancing stint ended – about everything from her bond with winner and country music star Kellie Pickler, to returning to the gym and incorporating her new dance moves in her next floor routine.

After Tuesday night’s finale, you flew from Los Angeles to New York City for an appearance on Good Morning America and then more media and appearances. Are you still tired from that?

I’m good right now. I’m in New York and having a lot of fun. We did GMA yesterday and then we did (Live with Kelly and Michael), and Mark’s birthday is tomorrow and mine’s on Saturday. I’ll be home for my birthday so I’m excited about that, to see all my friends and family. I’m doing good. It was a really, really fun experience, so I’m happy. Glad it’s over though.

It was definitely long, and must have been taxing. How do you feel about your experience on the show?

The show was so amazing, and it was so challenging and it was so fun at the same time. I didn’t know what to expect coming in to it, but I definitely did not expect to make so many amazing friends. Everyone on the show is so nice; it’s like one big family. It was just a really, really amazing experience and I couldn’t be any happier to be on the show, and I’m so thankful they asked me to do it.

You finished in fourth place on the show – a result you’ve had three times at World Championships and once at the Olympic Games. Was this fourth place different?

Of course it was a bummer when they announced we were in fourth place. It was definitely upsetting, but then when you think about it, I’m lucky to even have been asked to do this show. It’s not always all about winning. My whole life it’s always been about getting on the podium, so for the first time in my life I ended a competition that it doesn’t matter for me win or lose. I didn’t have any pressure on me going into this. It’s not like going into the Olympics where you have that pressure to win. It was a really fun and great experience and I said I wanted to make the finale from day one and I did, so that’s all that matters. For me this was all about the journey, and I had such a great time. I learned so much about myself. I gained so much confidence and I definitely improved so much more (than I expected). I surpassed my expectations. If you put my floor routine next to my last samba routine or my Afro-jazz, it’s like a completely different person, so that’s what means the most to me.

Do you think Kellie Pickler deserved to win?

Yeah, Kellie is amazing. Her freestyle was so beautiful. I think she made everyone in America cry. It was so awesome and I love Kellie – she’s like my older sister. I’m so happy for her, she’s worked really hard and I’m really, really excited for her. We’re going to stay in touch and we’re going to go to a Beyonce concert together (in Pickler’s home state North Carolina in July), so I love Kellie.

Which year has been your favorite so far – 2012 or 2013?

2012, but they’re both so different. You can’t really compare the Olympics to Dancing with the Stars. (At the Olympics) there’s a lot of pressure. You work so hard your whole life and then to go to the Olympics was just an amazing experience. It was such an honor to represent USA and just to be able to spend that time with my teammates; it was such a great experience. But Dancing with the Stars was just all about having fun and really enjoying myself. I know my coaches Mihai (Brestyan) and Silvia (Brestyan) were so happy for me. They saw the transformation and they’re excited for me to get a new floor routine. Mihai couldn’t come this past week, but Silvia was there and she was so happy and just so excited. She was there watching all the dances and I told her I couldn’t wait to get a new floor routine.

(The Olympics and Dancing with the Stars) were just different. You can’t really compare the two. They’re the best experiences for different reasons, and I loved both of them both so much.

Do you have a new appreciation for ballroom dancing, and do you believe it’s harder than people would think?

Oh, dancing is so much harder than you would ever even imagine. I knew it was hard in the beginning, but you have to be in sync with your partner, you have to be aware of what your partner is doing. If they mess up, then you have to be with them. The pros never know what we’re going to do. If I do a wrong step, Mark has to be really quick in copying me so it doesn’t look obvious, like I messed up. They’re really great choreographers. It’s just hard. All the dances have different techniques: sometimes your feet have to be parallel and other times they’re turned out, and some dances have straight legs and other times they have to be bent. It’s just a lot to remember and a lot to think about, so it’s very challenging and it’s a lot of cardio.

Do you plan to continue dancing?

Yeah, I love dancing. I think it’s really fun. I’ll go back to the gym and I’ll incorporate some of the dance I’ve learned, but I guess as far as when I’m hanging out with my friends, I’ll dance and have a good time.

What sort of ideas does Silvia have in store for your next floor routine?

We’re just taking everything one day at a time. She doesn’t really have ideas. I don’t know what route we’re going to go with floor music, but she’s really excited and I can’t wait to start working on it with her. We have to take it one day at a time. I have to get back in the gym first.

You should really incorporate some Afro-jazz in your floor routine.

Yeah, I’m sure the judges would love that.

Your partner Mark would joke on the show about your inability to count music. Are you any better at it now?

Oh my god, yeah. I’m so much better now. I think the problem for me was in gymnastics you’re taught to block everything out, and when you’re competing you don’t hear anything. I’m one of those competitors that when I’m competing, it’s literally just silence, even if it’s so loud in the arena. Even in my floor routine, you just hear the accents of the music. I think it’s just a gymnast thing. I am a lot better at it now.

How do you think that will help you in the gym?

I guess I’ll have more musicality.

When do you think you’ll get back in the gym?

Either August or September. I’m still traveling a little bit, so I’m going to relax, have a nice summer, and then I’ll get back in the gym.

What plans do you have lined up before then?

I’m going to Israel this summer. I’m the ambassador of the Maccabiah Games. That’s a huge honor and I’m really, really excited about that.

What final words would you like to say to your fans?

Thank you guys all for voting for me and keeping me in for the finals. It was such a great experience and I hope that you guys all loved the dances, and thanks for all the support.

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Aly Raisman