The parking lot of in Burlington was packed with cheering fans of Olympian Aly Raisman for a welcome home rally in her honor Thursday.
The Needham resident won two gold medals and a bronze medal for the United States in gymnastics at the 2012 London Olympic Games. Raisman, 18, returned to the state on Monday and was at her home gym in Burlington Thursday.
Well before she arrived at roughly 11:30 a.m., crowds of fans were already lining up to welcome her home and for a chance to get an autograph and picture with the gold-medal winner.
When she did arrive, to Queen's "We are the Champions," the crowd went wild, swarming the police cruiser that delivered her to the event.
"Welcome home, we are happy to see you," Aly Raisman's coach Mihai Brestyan said. "I want to thank everyone who has come to see our gold medalist."
Brestyan then showed the medals to the crowd and addressed Raisman. "You have a lucky medallion to hold for the rest of your life. Welcome back," He said, adding: "Oh, and tomorrow morning you have practice."
"Being back here feels amazing," said Raisman. "I missed the people here and it is great to be back."
"The last couple of days have been hectic but a lot of fun," she said. "I'm excited to be back here."
Raisman then answered questions from the media, which was out in force to cover the historic event. First question up, what about the next Olympics?
"2016 is in the back of my mind but I'm just taking it one day at a time," she said. "Crazy to be back at the gym, felt like I hadn't been here in a long time. It is cool to be home."
Aly appeared humble, "Coming home with three gold medals doesn't change anything. Still going to work hard and try new things," she said. "Great to see people here and be home."
Raisman said the gymnastics tie-breaker was even mores stressful than competing, because you don't have control over it and you don't know how it is going to go.
What now for her?
"Just spending time with my friends and family," she said. "I live in Needham and will just do the normal things for now."
After she spoke to the crowd, it was time for pictures and autographs. The line to get an autograph and picture with Raisman wrapped around the building until well after noon at the Welcome Home rally.
Those in line were excited to meet the gold medal-winning gymnast.
"I love Aly!" said young gym member Marissa Frasier. "I can't wait to see her."
When asked what she thought of the rally, Frasier said she thought the turnout was quite something.
"It's crazy," she said.
Madelyn DeAndrade, 11, another student at Brestyan’s American Gymnastics Club said she thought "Aly rocks." Fellow student Nina Petti, 13, said she was "inspirational." Julia Palmieri, also 13, added that she was excited to meet the Olympian in person.
There were also some local businesses out in support of Raisman. b.good Burgers had their signature truck "Harvey" and were giving out smoothies to help fans beat the heat.
Corn & Co, the popcorn company that will be opening in the Burlington Mall this fall, was also getting into the Olympic spirit. They created a special flavor in honor of Raisman and were handing out samples at the rally.
"We made an Aly's Medal Mix, a combination of cheddar gold and handcrafted caramel to represent her gold and bronze medals," Bobby Berlin, who is co-owner with his brother Steven Berlin. "Our mission is to re-imagine popcorn with special flavors, it's popcorn reborn."
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