Aly and Lynn Raisman are reflecting on the journey from toddler tumbling to the Olympic Games

By Lindsay Kimble and Rose Minutaglio
Updated August 04, 2016 09:40 AM
Molly Cranna

When Lynn Raisman put her 2-year-old daughter Aly into gymnastics, she never expected the mommy and me class to lead to not one, but two Olympic gold medals.

“People say, ‘Oh, did you know? Did you expect this?’ ” Lynn tells PEOPLE. “But it was just something to do with a toddler, there was no plan.”

That toddler is now 22-year-old Aly Raisman, the champion gymnast who won the women’s floor final and helped Team USA land at the top of the podium in the team final during the 2012 London Olympics.

Ahead of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, Aly and Lynn reflected on the journey from toddler tumbling to red, white and blue leotards.

“Me and my mom are very close – we always have been,” Aly says.

For more of PEOPLE’s Olympic coverage, pick up our collector’s edition, The Best of the Games, on sale now.

Lynn tells PEOPLE that at a young age, Aly began committing to more and more days a week of gymnastics – and that’s when she knew her daughter was serious about the sport.

“She started competing when she was eight, but somewhere around 2009 or 2010, that’s when I was like, ‘Oh, she’s on the national team, like this is really a lot more than I expected,’ ” the mom of four shares, adding, “I didn’t think we would be here.”

And now on the world stage, Aly says she’s come to rely on her supportive family.

“I vent to my parents all the time,” she says. “What people don’t understand is that there are more tough days than good days, because gymnastics – I work out so many hours a day and the beam is four inches wide and you’re flipping around and trying all these things.”

She continues, “There are obviously days when you have a bad day and your timing is off and you can’t make a skill, so I definitely come home and vent to my parents a lot because it’s mentally exhausting too, not only physically.”

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Mom feels the pressure too, even from the sidelines.

For more of PEOPLE’s Olympic coverage, pick up our collector’s edition, The Best of the Games, on sale now.

“I get nervous because I know what goes into it and how many hours she’s prepared and how hard she is on herself, and I want her to be happy and go out there and do the best performance she can do,” says Lynn. “So when it’s over, she is happy no matter the results, so I do get nervous. But whatever she was doing I want her to have the best outcome.”

The nerves sometimes get the better of Lynn, who “always cries” at Aly’s meets, the gymnast reveals.

“I still can’t believe she went to the Olympics,” Lynn says. “It’s crazy.”

To learn more about all Olympic hopefuls, visit The Rio Olympics begin Friday on NBC.