By Jo-Ann Barnas
PITTSBURGH – At the ground level of it all, Aly Raisman’s decision to return to training with an eye on the 2016 Rio Olympics is rooted in competitiveness.
But to be perfectly honest, a lot of it is personal, too.
It’s those special behind-the-scenes moments that aren’t subjected to being judged or captured by cameras and cell phones. Raisman seems to treasure those as much as her trio of Olympic medals from the 2012 Summer Games.
Take what happened Friday night before she headed off to watch the senior men compete at the P&G Gymnastics Championships at Consol Energy Center. There was a knock at her hotel room door and – voila – she was reunited with Kyla Ross, her Olympic team gold-medal winning pal from London.
They sat on Raisman’s bed and chatted before Ross – the lone Fierce Fiver competing at the P&G Championships – helped Raisman pick the right outfit and lipstick color to wear for the senior men’s competition.
“It’s like no time has past between us,” Raisman said Saturday in a hotel restaurant near Consol. “It was perfect.”
Raisman returned to training in September 2013 after taking a year off following the London Games. She is back with her coach, Mihai Brestyan, in her old gym in Burlington, Mass.
Raisman will be just 22 in the next Olympic year, and Brestyan – along with national team coordinator Martha Karolyi – are bringing the gymnast back gradually. For example, she has worked her way up to a double twist on vault.
“My bars are the slowest to come back,” she said. “Mihai has been conservative about it, but I’m starting to get my releases back. But we’re taking it one skill at a time.”
As of now, Raisman – who’s an inch taller than she was in London – is looking to make her competitive return at the 2015 Secret U.S. Classic. Reigning Olympic all-around champ Gabby Douglas also plans to make the Secret event her comeback meet.
No U.S. woman has made back-to-back Olympic teams since 2000, when Dominique Dawes and Amy Chow – members of the Magnificient 7 – did it. Five of the six members of the 2008 team tired to make the 2012 squad, but none did.
“I’m coming back because I have more to accomplish,” Raisman said. “I’d love to experience it (the Olympics) again. It will be fun for me watching the girls compete (tonight) but I wish I was out there with them.”