Hundreds of Needhamites gathered at Thursday morning to "Rally for Aly," at an event set up to show support for local gymnast Aly Raisman as she competed in the finals of the all-around gymnastics competition at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
The three-hour event showed off an incredible amount of town spirit, as many local residents led cheers between Raisman's events.
The highlight, of course, was when it was the recent graduate's turn to compete. The entire room erupted in cheers every time she successfully completed one of her difficult moves.
While some of Raisman's NHS classmates were in attendance, many of the loudest supporters were preschool and elementary school children. Most of the younger fans held signs they had drawn and wore either decorated T-shirts or facepaint.
"We wanted to support Aly," said Elizabeth Mahoney, who also just graduated from Needham High School. "The kids we babysit are excited. They wanted to watch Aly. They totally look up to her as their idol."
Fellow American gymnast Gabby Douglas also became a crowd favorite as the day moved along. The Virginia native and only other American in the all-around competition received patriotic cheers as she completed each of her events. Douglas won the gold medal in the competition, giving Team USA its of the 2012 Olympics.
The only disappointing moment of the event was when Raisman made a mistake on the balance beam, seemingly losing her balance for a moment. It cost her points, and in the end she finished tied for third with Aliya Mustafina of Russia with a score of 59.566. A complicated tiebreaking system gave Mustafina the bronze medal, and Raisman finished fourth.
But the 18-year-old will be bringing a gold medal back to Needham as the United States already won the team competition. She will also be competing in two more individual events at the Olympics—the balance beam and floor exercise finals on Tuesday, Aug. 7.
"I came because I was a gymnastics mom," Needham resident Kim Marie Nicols said. "We love gymnastics. The best thing of all is she's a hometown girl. I'm disappointed she didn't get a medal, but she's still number one in Needham."
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