Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Two time Olympic champion Aly Raisman is officially back. Monday, USA Gymnastics released a video of Raisman training and discussing her comeback. Gymnastics fans everywhere rejoiced.
Raisman, captain of the 2012 gold medal winning Olympic team (dubbed the “Fierce Five”), discussed a comeback, but many were dubious. Aly has been back in the gym for about a year now, getting in shape and getting all of her skills back. She started attending National Team Training camp again in October. When she was added to the National Team at the conclusion of the November camp, it became clear she was serious about the comeback.
Raisman seemed like the most likely of the Fierce Five to make a comeback after a break from gymnastics. Her club teammate Alicia Sacramone, 2008 Olympic silver medalist, made a promising comeback in 2010. Sacramone came back even stronger than before her break and coach Mihai Brestyan did a wonderful job of allowing her to return at her own pace.
Sacramone and Raisman have similar strengths and styles, so it seemed likely that if Aly wanted to come back, Brestyan could get her there.
Raisman also has some motivation: she tied for third in the Olympic all-around final but lost the bronze medal when the tiebreak didn’t go her way. Aly admits in her interview that it still bothers her and serves as motivation everyday in the gym.
From the video, it’s clear that this comeback is no publicity stunt. The training footage shows Aly working skills mostly on beam and floor, her two best events. Raisman has almost all of her skills back, but acknowledges that the challenge will be to put full routines together.
Uneven bars are definitely Aly’s weak spot. Many people thought that if she came back she would stop training bars to focus on her better events. However, the training video shows that she hasn’t given up. This is a smart and strategic move. A decent uneven bar routine would make Aly more desirable for Team USA. Even though her bar routine wouldn’t be the first choice, she could be counted on to hit a routine, even if it weren’t perfect.
Raisman’s best quality is her consistency. Throughout her senior career, Aly was one of the most dependable gymnasts in the US. She delivered huge scores on beam and floor, but could also hit a vault or bar routine if needed. Despite a weak bar set, she continually proved herself as one of the best all-around gymnasts in the world, even upsetting teammate and favorite Jordyn Wieber for a spot in the Olympic all-around final.
Now that it’s clear Aly’s back in the gym and on track to be competing soon, the real question is if she will make the team. Two years is a long time in gymnastics, so it’s hard to tell exactly how Aly might fit into a World Championships team in 2015 or an Olympic team in 2016.
If Aly gets back to where she was in 2012, I think she has a great shot at making the Olympic team. The US is uncharacteristically weak on beam and floor right now, and Aly fills that void. While there are a few gymnasts who can deliver good scores on either event, Aly is unique in that she can be both a beam and floor specialist and a top all-arounder. This versatility and consistency are the qualities needed in a team situation.
Obviously, Aly’s comeback is not yet complete, but I think she’s on the right track. I’m excited to see how her new routines come together and where she might fit in for Team USA.
Featured image courtesy of jewishjournal.com.