It’s been kind of a crappy news day here on the lowercase gymternet. With everyone in a mild rage about this whole Belarus mess and with Silver Princess Kyla Ross deciding to withdraw from Worlds selection after seven years of uninterrupted badassery in the sport, it’s time for a little pick-me-up.
In honor of the U.S. Worlds selection camp beginning October 6 and in honor of Aly Raisman being awesome, here’s what she had to say when we talked to her after nationals this past August. (Yes, it’s from August. We’re lazy about transcribing. Shh. Enjoy.)
How did tonight feel for you?
Tonight felt really good. I’m just so relieved that it’s over, to be honest, just because I was so nervous. It’s one of those things that no matter how much you train it’s hard to prepare for something like this because we go one at a time, so it’s so intense and when you’re on vault, bars, and beam, it’s so quiet you can hear a pin drop. It’s pretty nerve wracking but it feels good and I’m happy, and besides the beam routine it was a good championship. Marta and Bela and Mihai and Sylvie were all happy and obviously I want to impress them. I know I still have a lot of improvements and stuff but it feels good and besides that mistake on beam the other events went well and so I’m really happy.
Was tonight as good as you hoped it could be at this point?
Um, I was happy. I mean my beam was obviously better than day one, my vault was better than day one and Mihai said my floor was better than day one but I thought the other day was better but besides the split half turn he was happy with it. I mean any time you hit four for four without any major mistakes it’s a good thing especially after being gone for so long.
You came back from having that fall in night one and were so strong tonight. Can you talk a little bit about that?
I think the fall woke me up a little bit. In the first event I was a little timid and nervous and shaky and I kind of remembered you have to be aggressive and not hold back when you compete especially on an event like beam. If you let your legs shake and wobble you’re gonna fall off the beam, you have to be really tight and really aggressive so it’s all a learning experience. That’s why we have these championships leading up to Worlds and the Olympics so me and SImone were saying better here to make a mistake then somewhere else and you know it happens and she did a great job tonight again so we were able to get some redemption on the event we messed up on.
You’re an experienced competitor. What goes through your head after a fall like that?
Tonight I was pretty nervous. I feel like I’m always nervous. We have to go one at a time so it’s really intense here. It’s just one of the these things you work so hard and everything, when you go out there you have to be a little more calm. I was happy that on bars I wasn’t as nervous as I normally am. It’s kind of like, we were joking around because in training my bars were better and my beam was a little more shaky and I flipped it and keep my bars confident and add in my beam back where it usually is.
Tonight you took out some connections on beam and played it a little safe. Did that help at all coming in with a slightly easier routine? Did it help with the consistency?
Well, Mihai didn’t know I was doing that. I just kind of did it because I was nervous but I mean I felt a little off on my front pike. On night one I tried to connect it no matter what and I shouldn’t have but I kind of just held back a lot too and tonight I tried to be more aggressive and I took out a couple connections but all the stuff I did I got credit for everything I did. I got a 6.4 with missing three connections which would be a 6.7 and I got a switch leap half which I normally didn’t get at Classics or Day 1 so I was happy that I was able to make some sort of improvement.
Did Marta talk to you after the competition on Thursday?
Yeah, well, we were a little bit afraid she would be mad but she was actually really really supportive and Bela came up to me before the meet and I obviously knew they wouldn’t be happy if I fell again and he just said you have to be really tough and have to remember about all that you’ve accomplished and to be more aggressive and Marta said I’ve never seen you fall in the 5 years you’ve been on the national team she’s like it’s okay it happens you looked really nervous and a little too excited and just don’t let it ruin your confidence and just turn the page and act like it never happened.
Where do you feel like you are in regards to progressing towards Worlds and Olympics?
This is my fifth year getting third place all around so it’s kind of like it’s good luck for me I guess so I’m happy that’s where I am. Obviously third isn’t first or second but it’s okay I’m happy with that. It wasn’t easy having that mistake on beam and coming back and having to compete that again, it was really nerve-wracking I won’t lie so I was glad I was able to push it aside, turn the page and I was able to do the routine. It wasn’t my best routine but I was able to push through and fight through.
How does it feel to win floor?
It feels really good. Obviously if Simone hadn’t fallen she still would have won so I know that but it feels good just to be able to try those new skills. The split half wasn’t as good as night one but it was only my second time competing it so you kinda have to feel the floor out because it’s so bouncy. I was a little nervous I was gonna fly off the floor and I held back a little since it was the first event like I did with beam on night one so I just gotta get out there and compete a little bit more.
What do you think about Simone’s performance?
It’s crazy, she always seems so relaxed and so calm. Her vault, I didn’t see it because I was going next on bars but I could tell she stuck it and she got a 9.9 execution which is crazy but it’s deserved and amazing. I always watch her because she’s so powerful and explosive and I think we can all learn stuff from her. There’s really no words to describe her. It’s amazing that she doesn’t let the pressure get to her.
Is there anything you can do to close that gap?
I think it’s about pacing ourselves, we still have a year and at the same time for me my priority is really making the team and making the Olympic team again. The most incredible thing is winning the team gold medal, that’s the thing you remember at the end of the day and that’s why the five of us had so much fun at the Olympics and why Gabby and I decided to come back because we won and we got to do so many cool things and it was a great experience. I was on one world championship team where we got second in 2010 and it’s such a different atmosphere when you win. It’s obviously more fun if you win and I just think there’s nothing like winning a team gold medal and we all get that I always feel a little more confident and happy when competing as a team. I get more nervous individually.
What’s your plan for upgrades going forward?
Well on beam obviously I didn’t connect all of it, I kind of got nervous, I was a little bit of a chicken and got a 6.4 start value but I know it can be higher. There was a training camp this year where I got a 15.7 on beam so I’m still waiting on that. I had a 14.9 tonight which is not even close to it and hopefully in the next couple months I can get up to that. Obviously Marta judges that so 14.9 is not what she wants me to get so hopefully I can get there soon.
Are you where you wanted to be one year out?
Yeah, I didn’t really know what to expect coming back. I feel like I’m in better shape. I feel stronger than I was before. When I’m at home I feel more confident and I have to learn to have that confidence when I compete. Hopefully that will come with more experience. Even though I have a lot of experience I still feel like a little junior for the first time out there and I feel nerve wracking and a little shaky so tonight definitely felt better than day one though.
What’s the most difficult thing about being back?
I didn’t forget how hard it was but you don’t really realize it. Every day leaving the gym I’m exhausted mentally and physically and some days I train up to 7 hours and I’m exhausted and dead so it’s kind of pushing yourself and mentally keep going no matter how exhausted and tired you are and think about the Olympics.
Are you nervous after working your way back after time off?
Yeah I think it’s just been a long time and I knew I couldn’t make a mistake again. You never want to fall its never ok to make a mistake. I mean obviously right now we’re human but at World Championships or Olympics you never want to have a big major mistake so I just wanted to prove to them that I could come back strong. Marta and Bela normally doesn’t talk to me but he talked to me before the meet and it made me want to do really well and impress him but it also made me nervous because you want to do good and you respect them so much.
What were you and SImone saying to each other on the podium tonight?
Me and Simone are always laughing and giggling about stuff. She got this big bowl for sports athlete of the year and mine for sportswoman of the year is a little award thing and we said we’d eat ice cream out of her bowl and use mine as a spoon. We’re always talking about really weird stuff, I don’t know, we’re always giggling and laughing. It’s to the point that Mihai and Aimee won’t let us talk to each other because we can’t stop laughing. During training we try to keep it more serious and focused because its gymnastics but we’re always laughing.
USA are BAMFs. How do you feel about the deep competition on this team?
I don’t even think about that. For me my priority is to quality for the team. The events I would be used for I need to improve on. Some girls were beating my score with a double twist with a two and a half so I need to show Marta that I can do it and do my beam like I had been doing at training camps the last couple months. I don’t really think about that but I’m sure the Russians and Chinese have a lot of girls that are very very good especially individually that we can watch out for. I remember in 2011 the Russian girl won floor so you can just never underestimate your opponents and there are always good ones and they might even have some juniors that are left at home.
Talk about Worlds selection camp.
Worlds selection camp is always intense because you have Marta judging and one other judge so any time you go in front of her you want to impress her. Marta and Bela were there and I’m sure Bela will be there at world selection camp and they’re always supportive and they’re always looking out for me. I have a good relationship with them because they’re Romanian and my coaches are Romanian and I’m part Romanian too so they’re always talking to me, helping me out. She’s like that with the other girls too but it’s definitely one of those things where you never want to disappoint her because it doesn’t feel good when that happens and you always just want to do your best. We all work so hard so you want everyone to do well and have a fair shot of making it.
What would it mean to win an all-around medal this year?
It would be crazy. I try not to think about it because it’s one of those things where it’s crazy to even fathom or think about. Obviously I would love to medal on floor and beam but I just try to take it one day at a time and not think about it too much because it gets to be a little too overwhelming.
How did it feel to already be voted Sportswoman of the Year again?
It feels really good because I’m really close with all the girls and the first camp I remember me and Gabby didn’t really know anyone and it was kind of weird being the oldest one but the girls are just so fun and I’m actually so so close with all the juniors so it means a lot that they voted for me. It’s funny, Simone and Maggie and some of the older girls don’t sleep as much so a lot of the time the juniors will come in my room before bed and we’ll kind of just wind down together but I’m always like, Simone has to leave the room at 9:30 because she’s too hyper and too crazy but the other kids, we’re always on the same sleeping schedule so we always bond over that. But Simone is so fun and I always tease her because she’s so hyper all the time.
Transcription by Shannon Joy