Aly Raisman's Hard Work Paid off with an Unforgettable Gold Medal Performance

Danny FlynnSenior Analyst IAugust 7, 2012

Team captain Aly Raisman was the most successful and stable American gymnast at the 2012 London Olympics
Team captain Aly Raisman was the most successful and stable American gymnast at the 2012 London OlympicsJerry Lai-USA TODAY

If you looked through the comments on one of the many Aly Raisman YouTube highlight videos in the weeks leading up to the Olympics, you would have have seen both support and criticism of the rising star gymnast.

There were those who praised Raisman for her fearlessness and unshakable resolve, but there were also some gymnastic purists who picked out minor flaws in her technique and questioned her overall physical ability.

Those same critics were the ones who were spending most of the time in the weeks leading up to the Olympics building up Raisman’s teammate, Jordyn Wieber, as the future star. As it turned out, however, it was the 18-year-old elder statesman and captain of the London team, Raisman, who has been the one who’s flourished in London over the last week.

The Massachusetts native may only be 5-foot-2, but she was still one of the biggest performers and one of the biggest breakout stars of the 2012 games.

After surprising many by beating out Wieber in the All-Around qualifying stage, Raisman went on to solidify a team gold medal for the U.S. with her outstanding floor and vault performances in the team portion of the competition.

Raisman bounced back from a heartbreaking moment, in which she came up empty-handed in the individual all-around final after losing a tie-breaker for the bronze medal, and flourished during the final night of gymnastics competitions.

A 15.6 score for a basically flawless floor routine proved to be enough for a gold medal for her floor performance. Add in the bronze she took home on beam after actually, ironically winning a tie-breaker, and that’s three total medals for Raisman, the most of the five-member team.

The leader of the so-called “Fierce Five” proved to be the most stable member of the ultra-talented group, as others such as Wieber, McKayla Maroney and Gabby Douglas struggled and faltered during certain individual events.

Raisman is a gymnast who has been widely praised for her hard work and discipline throughout her sensational journey and rise to stardom.

Waking up for early morning practice sessions, sacrificing social time with friends and doing such daunting and demanding physical work is the life that Raisman and many other of her fellow gymnasts have endured during their youth.

Most child competitors will never see all of that sacrifice and commitment pay off with an Olympic medal, but for Raisman, it helped to earn her three, including two coveted gold medals.

Raisman’s name now deserves to be right up there with Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt and the other high-profile athletes that have received so much coverage and publicity during the London games. Her performance at the 2012 Olympics was simply one of the best we’ve seen from a U.S. gymnast in decades.

Her wise move to turn pro and sign with an agency will prove to be extremely beneficial in the coming months, as she becomes the golden gymnast that all of America will surely embrace.

Commercials, late night talk shows, special appearances around the country are just some of the things that will be on the itinerary for the wild ride that Raisman will now get to experience when she returns back to her home country.

Gymnastics may never appeal to a large segment of the American population, but every American can appreciate an athlete performing up to their peak potential on the biggest possible stage imaginable.

Those grueling early morning practices and those hours upon hours of traveling around the world for different events helped shape Aly Raisman into an Olympic gold medalist, and no one will ever be able to take that away from her.

There probably won’t be any vocal gymnastics aficionados who will criticize Raisman for her technique in the many YouTube highlight videos of her Olympic performance that are sure to flood the site in the coming days.

Just like her predecessors Carly Patterson and Nastia Liukin, Aly Raisman showed kids from around the world that if you put in the time, the effort and dedicate yourself to reaching your full capabilities, extraordinary moments can happen.

There are some who ask if all the hard work and time that many of these young Olympic athletes devote to training when they’re kids will really pay off in the long run, seeing as many will likely never make any financial gain from their sport.

It’s moments like Aly Raisman’s gold medal performance, however, that are really what’s the true gold at the end of the rainbow for the athletes.

Plenty of tears were shed in the waiting area during the 2012 gymnastic events, as many of the girls’ lifelong dreams had been crushed by just a minor mistake. Raisman wasn’t one of those girls, though.

Even when she faced the harsh disappointment of qualifying for an All-Around individual bronze medal, yet never getting to taste the thrill of standing on the podium to accept it, Raisman still showed the type of focus and willpower that she honed throughout her career.

In the end, it all paid off with an unforgettable performance that put a nice, neat bow on a memorable Olympics for Raisman and the rest of the U.S. women's gymnastics team. 

“That could be gold medal greatness,” is what announcer Tim Daggett concluded with at the end of Raisman’s sensational floor performance.

As soon as she came off stage and hugged coach Mihai Brestyan, you could see on the young gymnast’s face that she immediately knew that she nailed it and that she would likely be the one taking home the coveted gold medal.

That one instantaneous feeling of success and triumph was enough to make every one of those moments of preparation truly worth it.