Who is… Laurie Hernandez
Lauren Hernandez was born on June 9, 2000 in New Brunswick, NJ. Her parents put their 5-year-old daughter in dance and ballet classes, but it wasn’t holding her attention—her parents had to bribe her with sugar cookies to make her go to class. One day, a more exhilarating sport caught her eye.
“My earliest memory was watching gymnastics on live TV, and wanting to do what the ‘big girls’ did,” Hernandez said. “I started a gymnastics class at five years old, but it became serious at seven.”
Hernandez began taking recreational classes, and also gained the nickname Laurie because there were other Lauren’s at her gym. Soon she was spotted by Maggie Haney, who has now been her coach for nearly 10 years. Haney hadn’t coached an elite gymnast before, but the two learned and grew together as a team.
When Hernandez was nine, Haney started looking into getting her promising young gymnast into USA Gymnastics’ national development camps. She could attend if she had a high enough score in the Talent Opportunity program (TOPs), which measures basic gymnastics skills and physical aptitude. According to ESPNW, when Haney’s contact at USA Gymnastics looked up Hernandez’s TOPs score, she said, “Oh, she’s the No. 1 TOPs kid in the country. She can come.”
Hernandez rose quickly through the ranks of junior gymnastics—in 2012 she finished 21st in the all-around at the national championships and in 2013 13-year-old Hernandez finished second and won event medals on uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise.
But then she was hit by injury, first fracturing her wrist early in 2014 and then dislocating her right kneecap, tearing her patella ligament and bruising her MCL all on one bad vault landing that same year. The knee injuries required surgery and a piece of a cadaver’s ligament was attached to her own.
She didn’t compete at all in 2014 as she worked her way back to full strength. She had no trouble making up for lost time in 2015: she went undefeated in the all-around over all four of the competitions, two domestic and two international, she entered that year. At the national championships, she not only claimed the all-around gold but won medals on all four events: gold on uneven bars, silver on floor exercise, and bronzes on vault and balance beam.
Still just 15 years old, Hernandez burst into the conversation surrounding possible Olympic teams. Luckily, she became age-eligible to compete in the Rio Games when she turned 16 in 2016.
Hernandez made her senior debut at the 2016 City of Jesolo Trophy, a friendly international competition in Italy. She fit right in with the older, more experienced gymnasts, helping the U.S. women to team gold and winning beam gold, vault silver and all-around bronze.
Hernandez put in a more than solid performance at her next competition, the Pacific Rim Championships. Three-time world champion Simone Biles won the all-around, with 2012 Olympic floor champion Aly Raisman finishing second—and then just 0.100 points behind Raisman was Hernandez.
Laurie Hernandez competes on floor with attitude at Pac Rim
Hernandez then had to hit pause on her training to treat another knee injury, and she only competed on two events at the Secret U.S. Classic. After using Classics as a tune-up meet, Hernandez showed her strongest gymnastics yet at the 2016 P&G Championships. She again finished just behind Biles and Raisman to claim all-around bronze, and finished third on three events.
Olympic Trials highlights
Hernandez was at her best at the 2016 Olympic Trials, showing no signs of struggling with the immense pressure on her shoulders. She finished second in the all-around and earned the highest scores on beam.
2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics
On August 7, Hernandez competed in the Women’s Qualification at the 2016 Summer Olympics where the top 8 placing teams get to advance to the Team All Around Finals. Hernandez scored a 15.200 on the vault, a 15.366 on the balance beam, and a 14.800 on the floor exercise, qualifying to the balance beam event finals. Hernandez was unable to compete in the All Around Finals because there is an Olympic rule stating that only two athletes may represent their country in All Around Finals. August 9 was the Team All Around Finals, meaning each country had 3 girls compete on each event and all scores counted. The US team, known as the Final Five, won the gold medal in the Team All Around. On August 15 during Event Finals, Hernandez won a silver medal on the Balance Beam with a score of 15.333. She placed ahead of teammate Simone Biles, who placed 3rd with a score of 14.733 and behind Sanne Wevers of the Netherlands, who won gold
Hernandez competes with no shortage of expressiveness and personality, especially on the floor exercise. International Gymnast Magazine called Hernandez the “Human emoji” and gymnastics podcast Gymnastic nicknamed her “baby Shakira.” With her early dance training and inimitable style, Hernandez always puts on a show when she performs.
After her gymnastics career ends, Hernandez says she’d love to keep performing—but as an actress.
Outside the Gym
Hernandez has been homeschooled since the third grade, and is planning to continue both her education and her gymnastics career as an NCAA student-athlete at the University of Florida.
For fun, Hernandez enjoys learning dances off YouTube, doing her nails, and reading—she names The Maze Runner as her favorite book. She also shows her creativity by writing poems, sketching and using Photoshop to edit photos.
25 Things you don’t know about me!
- My hidden talent is doing the robot.
- I can’t live without my phone!
- My biggest fear is spiders.
- My athlete idol is Usain Bolt. He’s inhumanly fast!
- My teammates make me laugh and giggle until I can’t breathe.
- People would be surprised to know I had a flip phone until 2015. (LOL!)
- The musician I love the most is Tori Kelly.
- I have overcome injuries in the sport of gymnastics.
- My greatest inspiration is my coach Maggie Haney.
- Before Rio, I was most excited to spend four weeks straight laughing and working out with the girls!
- Jennifer Lawrence is my favorite actress.
- On Sundays, I just love to go to church and then relax the whole day!
- Right now, my biggest celeb crush is Dave Franco.
- A rough memory from gymnastics was going to a selection camp and ripping two pairs of grips in one day.
- I must have these five things in my gym bag at all times: grips, tape, wrist guards, knee brace and my calming peppermint oil.
- My motto in life is to embrace every moment.
- I say “Yo!” way too much.
- I am terrible at turns; hence my single passé turn on floor and beam.
- My most memorable gymnastics moment was being named to the 2016 Rio Olympics team!
- I pamper myself by using bath bombs.
- The first thing I plan to do after the Games is stay up all night celebrating with my teammates!
- My coach and my family keep me grounded through this journey.
- My advice for young girls pursuing a dream is to never give up, no matter what!
- I cheer for the New York Giants because my dad tells me to.
- My cheat meal was an In-N-Out burger after the second day of Olympic trials.