Needham's newest celebrity returned home Tuesday night to an enthusiastic welcome.
Aly Raisman, 18, won a spot on the U.S. Women's Gymnastics Team last weekend and will head to London, England later this month to compete in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. With a tight schedule and more training ahead of her, Raisman took some time Tuesday evening before the Needham Exchange Club's fireworks show at Memorial Field to say hi to her hometown, sign some autographs and have her picture taken with her fans.
Needham Selectman Jerry Wasserman said officials had hoped to put together a celebration of Raisman before she headed to London but understood her tight schedule.
"We found out just a few hours ago that she would be here tonight," Wasserman said, after introducing Raisman in between sets by the Boston-based oldies band The Reminsants.
Wasserman said officials hoped to do more to honor Raisman upon her return from the London games.
"We are so proud of her," he said.
Raisman's response after being introduced was short and sweet.
"Hi everyone," she said to the hundreds of people sitting on blankets and lawn chairs on Memorial Field. "I just wanted to thank you for all the support, and I hope to make you all proud. I'm so honored to be on the 2012 Olympic Team, and I can't wait."
Afterward, Raisman moved around the field greeting people of all ages while they requested autographs and photos. The crowd of fans was so steady that eventually local police had to escort her from the field so she could get away.
Raisman, a 2012 Needham High School graduate, earned one of five spots on the U.S. Women's Gymnastics Team with her performance at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials last weekend. She trains at Brestyan's American Gymnastics in Burlington.
The Needham teen will be featured in a new documentary that is set to air next week on Comcast SportsNet New England.