NEW ULM — Ann Bernard is one of the few loved ones of Ali Bernard left in New Ulm this week.
Ali’s grandma stayed behind to cheer Ali on from home Thursday morning when she competes in women’s wrestling at the Olympics in London. Meanwhile, 23 other family members and friends flew to London Monday to be there in person for her matches.
At 6 a.m. Thursday, Ann is going to a breakfast and viewing party of the big event in which 26-year-old Ali will compete in the 72 kg weight class.
Ali competed at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, coming in fifth. So Ann wasn’t at all surprised that Ali made the team again this year, and she has faith this time Ali will come home with a medal.
“She’s given me a lot of pleasure,” said Ann, who has put up signs and has been selling T-shirts in support of her granddaughter.
Many other New Ulm residents are proud of Ali, too.
New Ulm Mayor Bob Beussman is having American flags put out downtown, like the city does for the Fourth of July. And he’s encouraging other New Ulm residents to display flags at their homes and to wear red, white and blue Wednesday and Thursday. In fact, if Beussman can’t find his red, white and blue tie, he said he’s going to go buy another one.
“The most important thing is Ali is a citizen of New Ulm. She grew up here, she went to school here, she wrestled here,” Beussman said, adding that he’s hoping Ali comes home with a medal. “My first hope is that she comes home safe, and she’ll come home a hero to hopefully a winner’s welcome no matter what happens with her wrestling results.”
Beussman said he’s proud to say Ali is the only New Ulm resident to ever compete in the Olympics, although a couple of residents have come close in past years.
“So medal or no medal, she’s a winner in our mind,” Beussman said. “Hopefully, she’ll feel it that the city of New Ulm supports her.”
The support is clear in signs hung throughout the city. Sid’s Signs in New Ulm has a sign on its lot that says: “ Good luck Ali Bernard, New Ulm’s 2X Olympian. London, Aug. 9, 2012.”
“That would be great to have a local person win,” said Jan DeLeo, co-owner of Sid’s Signs.
Ali has been wrestling in New Ulm since childhood. She competed on the New Ulm High School wrestling team and participated in wrestling while in college at the University of Regina and then the University of Alberta, both in Canada.
Ali won five Canadian Collegiate Championships. After the Beijing Olympics, Ali competed in the world championships in 2009 and 2011, winning a bronze medal in 2011.
Ali almost didn’t make it to the Olympics this summer. She lost in April to Stephany Lee. But after Lee tested positive for marijuana, Ali was called back.
Watch Ali compete live 7 a.m. Thursday at nbcolympics.com.