That's not bravado, it's the truth. From Harvard's Bill Cleary to Boston University's Mike Eruzione to the many Bruins who have suited up for their countries on the ice, in the hockey world it's just not too hard to run into somebody who's competed at the foot of Mount Olympus. And it's been a pleasure to learn and share their stories with readers.
That said, as the beat reporter for BostonBruins.com, it's a rarity to run into a Summer Olympian — never mind a two-time gold medalist — but on Sunday, I had a pleasure of meeting and interviewing Needham-native Aly Raisman before her performance in the Kellogg's Tour of Gymnastic Champions in a sold out TD Garden.
Wearing her three medals from the London Olympics (two gold, one bronze), and showing a poise and maturity well beyond her 18-years, it was easy to see why the gymnast from Massachusetts had so captured the admiration of fans throughout the United States and especially here in New England.
"I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time," said Raisman of her chance to perform alongside three of her "Fierce Five" teammates under the Bruins and Celtics banners in the TD Garden.
"This is the only show that’s sold out [on our tour], so I can’t wait."
Many of New England's aspiring Olympians couldn't wait either, as the area in and around Causeway street was filled with budding gymnasts waiting to get a look at their Olympic hero.
Clearly, Raisman was looking forward to the fun atmosphere of the exhibition event in Boston, but admitted that along the way there were times when she wasn't sure that she would find her way from New England to London, England.
"It’s definitely a lot of fun, but it’s also really hard at times," said Raisman, with a tone that dialed below jubilant for the first time during the interview. "There were times when I felt like giving up or like I couldn’t do it anymore, but the thing that just pushed me farther was my goals and just competing in London, and definitely having these gold medals around my neck makes all those hard workouts worth it."
But true to form, and as evidenced by her active Twitter account, Raisman's smile dialed back up to ecstatic as she spoke about letting her true self shine through via the web and her performances.
"I try to really show my personality through Twitter, because I don’t want to change for anyone," she said. "I want people to see the real me, and I know that competing in London we were all really serious, so I’m excited to perform here tonight so people can see our personalities.
"I know that Jordyn (Wieber) and Gabby (Douglas) and I were all shuffling [excitedly] in the middle of the floor, so it will be a lot of fun."
As she readied herself to celebrate again, this time in front of fans, friends and family, Raisman, a huge Boston sports fan herself, was pleased to have her own place in the region's rich sports pantheon.
"It’s just really cool to be from here," she said.
And while she prepared to head back to the locker room, the Olympic Team Captain reflected on being home after conquering the world with her teammates.
"It’s kind of just crazy to look back at it," said Raisman. "I just remember being really emotional when we finished.
“You think about it for so long, and especially the year leading up to the Olympics, every day driving to the gym and every day in the gym while I was working out I was thinking of that moment, so to have it finally be there was so amazing and I just remember all the girls were screaming jumping up and down.”