London Kvelling is a series of articles profiling Jewish and/or Israeli athletes at the2012 Summer Olympics, which begins in London on July 27.
Update: Watch Aly in her winning "Hava Nagila" routine by following this link.
Alexandra Raisman is heading to London as part of a team, but if she winds up standing out on her own, her Judaism will play a role.
The 18-year-old native of Needham, MA, is one of the five artistic gymnasts who will represent the US in the women's team competition in London, as she'll look to help the US claim its first gold medal since 1996. A member of the US national team since 2010, when she placed second at the American Cup and earned a spot on the World Championship team, Raisman is also considered a contender for an individual medal in floor exercise—perhaps even a gold—where her routine is set to "Hava Nagila."
The routine, which Raisman has been performing for over a year, helped her win an individual bronze medal at last year's World Championships, where she also placed fourth on balance beam. Now, she's aiming even higher in London.
In an interview with JTA, Raisman said that she's proud to be using the traditional Jewish tune "because there aren't too many Jewish athletes out there" among the world's top gymnasts. National team coordinator Martha Karolyi suggested a general idea of Jewish music, and Raisman's mother, Lynn, found the up-tempo rendition of the song that the gymnast uses through an Internet search.
Early indicators for Raisman and the US team are strong, as they enter the Olympics as gold medal favorites following a win at the 2011 World Championships in Tokyo. If they can follow through and end a 16-year gold medal drought, there will certainly be cause for celebration.
And Raisman knows just the song.
J-Connection: Aly Raisman is Jewish.
Click here to read more Olympic Profiles in the London Kvelling Series.