Who’s Who in 2012: Raisman the Rock

Aly Raisman, Visa Championships 2012. Photo Credit Heather Maynez

Stars are great. They shine brightly, illuminating the sport of gymnastics to the rest of the world. Stars like the fierce competitor Jordyn Wieber, who inspires us with her ability to never give up and come through with high flying skills on floor and vault and incredible difficulty on beam. Stars like the effervescent Gabby Douglas, who entertains us as much with her personality as with her breathtaking bars work. But in a three up three count team finals scenario, you don’t just want stars. You want a rock.

Aly Raisman, donned by NBC’s Alexa Ainsworth “Reliable Raisman” is our rock. She is the one you can depend on to go out and hit time after time. She has an incredible ability to be in the moment – not allowing herself to feel any more pressure when she is competing than when she is training. Since her senior debut in 2010, Aly has proven herself again and again to the gymnastics world and most importantly to Marta. Marta said this weekend of Aly:

“…[Aly] always wants to prove herself to me! She looks in my eyes before competition and I just nod: ‘Everything is perfect, Aly.’ I really love to have this type of gymnast. She’d give her heart to be good.” –Gym Examiner

And she is more than good. She is great! She does one of the hardest floor routines in the world. Her first tumbling pass is absolutely unbelievable in its level of difficulty. And her second pass is so high you wonder if she is ever going to come down.  Aly won two national event titles this weekend (Floor and Beam) and placed third in the all around. She continues to gain our trust even as she captures our heart with her humble attitude, sky high tumbling, sweet smile and loyal friendships with the other gymnasts. Check out Aly’s routines and her interview after the first night at the Visa National Championships. (For a more recent post about Aly after the Olympics, check out Aly Raisman Rises to the Top.)

My First Visa National Championships Live! The Lay of the Land.

Yesterday I drove 15 1/2 hours and 1010 miles to arrive in St. Louis for my first live Visa National Championships. I pulled into our quaint hotel where I am rooming with blogging all star Blythe Lawrence. We talked gymnastics ’til the wee hours of the morning. We slept in this morning and then headed off to the Chaifetz Arena for the junior men’s competition. It is a gymnastics fan’s dream. I don’t think there are words to describe how excited I am for the next four days.

I am trying to be contained and mature, but I want to jump around like a giddy little girl. I walked in through the fan fest area, where kids were doing handstand contests, getting their faces painted and taking pictures on a cleverly constructed beam under a small Gateway to the West arch. Am I really to old to do all those things? I guarantee I will end up with my face painted and a pic under that arch by the end of the weekend. Probably with some autographs too.

The arena is actually smaller and more intimate than I was imagining. This is actually exciting for me – I waited so long to get my tickets that I have pretty bad seats. But even from these seats I will be able to see just fine. The walkway around the arena is slowly coming alive. Vendors are slowly building their boothes, fans are trickling in. The mood in the arena today is light hearted and laid back – it is the junior men after all.

I am excited to share my first live National Championships with you! Tune in all weekend!