Double U.S. Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman is back in the gym and anticipating a return to competition by next summer, likely at the U.S. Classic or U.S. Championships.
"It feels really good to be back," Raisman said at the 2013 World Championships in Antwerp, where she made a brief appearance to do interviews and cheer on U.S. teammates Simone Biles and Kyla Ross. "I don't regret taking a year off because I really needed it mentally...but it definitely gives me the itch to be back out there again."
After a packed year that included the 40-city post-Olympic tour, New York Fashion Week, a stint on Dancing with the Stars and a trip to Israel where she was an honored guest at this summer's Maccabiah Games, Raisman returned to training with coaches Mihai and Silvia Brestyan at Brestyan's Gymnastics in Burlington, Mass. a few weeks ago.
"I feel like I'm Supergirl or something, because I'm not even sore!" Raisman exclaimed at Worlds. "I think because I'm so happy to be back in the gym I feel great, and my coaches ahve bee so good with letting me take it really slow. I just started doing giants like two days ago, so really, really, really slow. Beam has been coming back really quick, but everything else has just been Tumbl Trak and I've basically just been doing sprints on vault, making sure I get back all the power and everything."
While much has changed in her life during the last 12 months, the 19-year-old says she still has a desire to prove herself at the highest level.
"I tied for third in the all-around [at the Olympics] and they broke the tie [and lost the bronze medal to Russia's Aliya Mustafina]," she said. "Gymnastics is the only Olympic sport that breaks the tie, so I should have four Olympic medals and I have three, so I think just that idea of...it still bothers me. It's never enough, you can always do more."
Raisman hasn't fixed a definite date for her return to competition, but she named the 2014 U.S. Classic or U.S. Nationals as potetial meets to launch a comeback. "We'll probably go back to training camp [at the Karolyi Ranch] sometime in the next few months," she added. "But when I go back out there I want to be really ready, to be in the same shape that I was last summer. The last time everyone saw me was my Olympic floor routine, so I want to be at that level."
Raisman said one thing she's especially looking forward to is getting a new floor routine, which will be choreographed by Silvia Brestyan, who choreographed the "Hava Nagila" piece that won the Olympic gold medal. Appearing on Dancing with the Stars this spring -- where she shimmied to fourth place with partner Mark Ballas -- has brought her newfound confidence in the performance aspect of floor exercise.
"When you're younger, you don't feel as like, girly, because you're all like, you know, you're never really thought of that way," she explained. "I'm really excted to get a new floor routine and be a little bit more confident out there. I'm really looking forward to it."
Raisman has been balancing training with her schedule of appearances and classes at Babson College in nearby Wellesley, Mass. "When I'm in school I look forward to going to the gym, so I kind of feel like a little kid again," she said. "I know what it takes when you're traning. Every day you're wondering if what you're doing is good enough and I've always trusted my coaches and we have a very good relationship. They were always very hard on me, very strict with me, but at the same time they were so loving and caring so I think we make a really good team. But I want to do this for myself. I still feel like I have more to give in the sport. It's kind of like a gut feeling. I want to know that I gave it my all and I don't want to be watching the next Olympics and think, 'Oh, what if I had tried?'"
So yes, the 2016 Rio Olympics are very much on her mind. "I started my first international competition in Brazil -- me and Kyla actually did -- so I always say we started our careers in Brazil and we should end them there," she said with a smile. "That would be really cool."