Aly Raisman was bursting with pride after becoming the first Jewish gold medalist of the 2012 London Olympics.
The 18-year-old from Needham, Massechusetts put in two near-faultless performances on the way to steering the USA to the Team gold in the Women’s Artistic Gymnastics competition at the North Greenwich Arena.
“It’s an amazing feeling to win gold,” she said. “The best feeling in the world, and it shows that all the hard work has paid off.
“It’s a huge honour to be the first Jewish gold medalist of the 2012 Games.
“I’m so excited and it definitely gives me a boost of confidence. It’s crazy and I cannot believe it.”
Team captain Raisman saved the best until last, with a stunning display in the floor exercise, with the crowd clapping to her favourite song, Hava Nagila. This followed a superb display on the beam.
“I was very happy with my performances,” she said. “I wanted Team USA to finish on a high and it was a huge honour to be the final athlete. I went up to do the best I could.”
The diminutive Raisman, who stands at 5ft 2in, went on to thank her family who encouraged her to take up the sport from
a very young age. “I want to thank them for always being there for me and letting me follow my dreams,” she said.
Jordan Wieber, Gabrielle Douglas, McKayla Maroney and Kyla Ross completed the American squad who finished with a combined score of 183.596, well ahead of runners-up Russia (178.530).
Raisman said: “I hope people will remember just how much fun we had, always smiling and we are all the best of friends.”
She is hoping for further success in the Individual competition.
“I know I have to keep my feet on the ground. I’ve had a really great time in London and this is a really special moment for us all. I hope we can inspire a generation as it’s such an honour to be here.
“It’s so surreal to be an Olympic champion. Of course there have been lots of sacrifices but winning gold makes it all the more worthwhile. It’s a dream come true.”
Raisman’s coach Mihai Brestayn added: “I have no words to describe Aly’s performance. She’s a very hard worker and has the support of the team. She’s under pressure permanently as captain but she rose to the occasion.”