Raisman goes for gold in Dancing with the Stars finale

Published On May 20, 2013 | By guest

Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman is familiar with winning. The 18-year-old gymnastics sensation teamed up with professional dancer Mark Ballas on this season of ABC’s hit reality series Dancing with the Stars. With the discipline that only an Olympic athlete could have, the duo has successfully made it to the final four of the two-part season finale, which begins on Monday night.

A lot has changed since Week 1 of the competition and Raisman is the first one to admit that.

“I can totally feel the difference,” Raisman said in an interview with ESPN. “I feel so much more comfortable in rehearsals and performing on Monday nights! I don’t feel afraid to try new things, and I’m not embarrassed to get into new characters! This is the most confident I’ve ever been.”

Confidence is something Raisman will needed entering Monday night’s competition.  The Needham-native will vie for first place against NFL wide receiver Jacoby Jones, country signer Kellie Pickler and Disney star Zendaya.  The teenager is the youngest competitor by a long shot but has shown quite a bit of maturity in the way she handled criticism from the judges throughout the competition. Judge Carrie Ann Inaba has been one of Raisman’s toughest critics this season.

“I always feel like I need to impress Carrie Ann more,” Raisman said in an interview with TV Guide. “She’s always very strict with me. I’ve really just been trying to nail it the past few weeks.”

If Raisman wants to win over Inaba in the finals, she will have to go back to her stellar performance of Week 4, where she took the top scores of the evening after performing a freestyle dance.  On Monday night, we can expect Raisman to step out of her comfort zone and show some of her Week 4 personality.

“I feel like every week I’ve showed a different side of me,” Raisman said. “I’m finally showing my personality. I’m really relaxed. In gymnastics, you get months to prepare a routine. This show, you have five days to learn a dance, and sometimes three in one week. I’m not a professional dancer so it was a little hard. I love this challenge.”

Monday night’s finale will be a challenge, but with Raisman’s experience in high-pressure competitions, it will be a hard fought battle in which an Olympic champion could thrive.

Be sure to tune in for the first night of the finale Monday at 8 p.m. on ABC.

Story by Francesca Pelletier

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