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In Needham, Gymnast Aly Raisman Is A Hometown Hero

Olympic medalist Aly Raisman is the captain of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. (AP)

BOSTON — I had no reason to think a trip to the bank on Monday would be anything other than routine, until the customer behind me at the teller’s window overheard my request.

“I need to make sure my ATM card will work in London,” I said. “And can I exchange some dollars for British pounds?”

I don’t think I said it any more loudly than I’d said “Good morning.”

Before the teller could respond, the woman behind me did.

“You’re going to London?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“To the Olympics?” she asked,

“Right,” I said.

The teller handed me a form.

“This is the number you can call about your card,” she said. “And we don’t have British pounds at this branch, but you can…”

“Are you going to see Aly?” asked the woman behind me.

“Aly” is Aly Raisman. She has been characterized as the rock on the women’s gymnastics team that won the gold medal on Tuesday. She is the captain, and she exudes confidence as well as grace. She comes from the town in which I live, and though it is not my hometown, since she is only 18, I have lived there longer than she has.

But it is her town. It has been since she was named to the Olympics team. On one of the retirement homes there is a big banner celebrating Aly Raisman. At various major intersections — or relatively major, since the town is not very big — electronic signs have been blinking good luck messages to Aly. She has not been there to see them. She was preparing for Tuesday, when she and her teammates won their gold medal, and for various days to come, when she may win more medals, and when she will be further celebrated by her hometown, and perhaps even by some people who don’t live in Needham, or even in Massachusetts.

“Oh, my God!” said the woman behind me.

I had achieved a kind of celebrity by making plans to travel to London.

“Do you know the Raismans?”

I’m afraid I disappointed the woman when I said that I didn’t. Perhaps I should have told her that Aly’s parents and I were old friends. But then I realized that all was perhaps not lost.

“I’ll see her compete on Tuesday,” I said. “Maybe I’ll meet them then.”

“Oh, my God,” the woman said.

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