Jewish competitor a favorite in San Jose

Aly Raisman, who has performed her floor routine to “Hava Negillah” since last summer, is in San Jose this weekend for the 2012 U.S. Olympic gymnastics team trials, which run through Sunday, July 1 at HP Pavilion. The 18-year-old from Needham, Mass. is one of the favorites to earn a spot on the U.S. squad that will compete in the upcoming Summer Olympics in London.

“She is just so solid,” said Martha Karolyi, the U.S. national team coordinator. “She goes out there and

doesn’t act like she’s bothered by anything. She knows she’s trained, she knows she’s ready and she doesn’t put any extra pressure on herself.”

Aly Raisman photo/ap

Raisman, who is Jewish and whose given name is Alexandra, finished third at the U.S. championships earlier this month in St. Louis, winning titles on both balance beam and floor exercise.

“I just want the Olympic trials to be here,” Raisman said after the U.S. championships. “It’s what I’ve been working for my whole life.”

On Raisman’s floor routine, the crowd starts clapping as soon as it hears the opening notes of “Hava Negillah,” and the arena takes on the same fun, festive atmosphere as when the partygoers dance the hora at a wedding.

“Everyone takes for granted that floor routine, but it’s so crazy. She had to work her butt off,” said Beijing Olympic co-captain Alica Sacramone. “She blows my mind. I train with her every day and I couldn’t do the things she does.”

Jordyn Wieber, the reigning world champion and U.S. champion, and Gabby Douglas are the big-name stars in U.S. women’s gymnastics these days, but Raisman was the only double winner at the U.S. championships two weeks ago. Her vault and routines on balance beam and floor exercise are as difficult as anyone’s in the world.

“She’s not necessarily as flashy as Jordyn or Gabby, and that’s why people look past her,” Sacramone said. “I think she deserves a little bit more credit.” — ap