Young leotard-clad gymnasts grabbed their cell phones and crowded around Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman at a San Jose gym Saturday.
In honor of the 18th annual National Gymnastics Day on Sept. 17, Raisman stopped by a gymnastics club on Great Oaks Boulevard to sign autographs and take photographs with budding gymnasts, who were atwitter at the sight of their idol.
"It's really special to see all the girls screaming and going crazy when I come here because I remember being just like them," Raisman said. "I was the little girl that wanted to go the Olympics. I see myself in them so it's really incredible."
Raisman advised the young gymnastics enthusiasts, who hung on her every word, to remember that the Olympics may look "easy" and "fun" — but in reality there are "more hard days than good days."
Thinking back to her days as a wannabe Olympic gymnast, Raisman admitted that she, like other young athletes, often got into trouble for not paying attention and talking too much.
At the end of the day, though, what matters most, she said, is a genuine love of the sport and the determination to never stop trying.
"It's important for them to remember that if you're having a rough day, if it's not coming together, it's OK," Raisman said. "It's all about working hard. It's all about the process to get there and it's all about giving it your all."
Raisman is in the Bay Area this weekend for Kellogg's Tour of Gymnastics Champions 2016 at the SAP Center.
She was part of the Final Five – Team USA’s gold medal-winning women’s gymnastics team – and a silver medalist in the individual all-around and floor exercise at the 2016 summer Olympic games.
"I worked so hard to get there," Raisman said. "I think a lot of people thought I was crazy when I said I wanted to come back, so to be able to do it with [my] teammates and people [I] worked so hard with for so many years, it was just incredible."
Winning gold in Rio was a "moment we'll obviously never forget," she said.
Later Saturday, Raisman threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the San Francisco Giants game at AT&T Park.
On Sunday, she will be joined by fellow Olympians, including Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez, Madison Kocian, Chris Brooks, Jake Dalton, Danell Leyva, Sam Mikulak, Alex Naddour, and others.
Although the two-time Olympian was both a member and captain of the Fierce Five in 2012 and Final Five in 2016 — both of which were victorious in the team competitions — Raisman insisted she is "human like everyone else."
"The way I look at it is if you give it your all, you work as hard as you possibly can, and you look back with no regrets, that's all you can ask for of yourself," she said.