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December 10, 2021 3 min read
Lauren “Laurie” Hernandez is an Olympic-medal-decorated American gymnast, and the youngest member of the “Final Five.” Exuberant and expressive, Laurie quickly earned herself a place in the hearts of her fans, as well as the nickname “The Human Emoji.”
At the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Laurie won silver in her individual balance beam routine, and helped the U.S. women’s gymnastics team secure the gold in the all-around competition. She has shown young girls everywhere that no matter their age, they can achieve truly amazing things if they put their mind to it.
Lauren Hernandez was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey on June 9, 2000. Her parents, Anthony and Wanda Hernandez, instilled a passion for athletics in all three of their children, and started signing Laurie up for gymnastics classes in Old Bridge when she was just six years old. Gymnastics was Laurie’s sport of choice because she wanted to experience the feeling of flying.
Laurie’s natural talent and grace soon caught the eye of Maggie Haney, who would become her long-time coach and manager. Haney put Hernandez through the USA Gymnastics development camps where she absolutely excelled - even at the young age of nine.
In 2014, Laurie suffered multiple injuries, including a dislocated right kneecap and a fractured wrist. These injuries completely sidelined her. While many people would have given up at this point, Laurie was an exception. After six months of rest and rehabilitation, she got right back to work.
Laurie Hernandez returned to her sport stronger than ever, and just a year later was earning medals in every event and competition. In 2015, she became the U.S. junior national champion. Only her young age of 15 held her back from qualifying for the Olympics at that time. But as we all know, nothing holds Laurie back for long.
In July 2016, Laurie qualified for a spot in Team U.S.A. alongside Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, and Madison Kocian - the team that would become known as the “Final Five.”
Laurie Hernandez was the first U.S.-born Hispanic gymnast to compete for Team USA since 1984, and one of only a handful of Latinas (including Annia Hatch, Kyla Ross, and Tracee Talavera) to represent the U.S. since 1936.
In an interview with NBC, Hernandez spoke about how proud she was of her Puerto Rican heritage. "I think it’s amazing that I can just go out there and be myself, and the fact that I’m carrying Puerto Rico on my back a little bit, I think that’s an honor,” she said.
All Laurie’s hard work and dedication paid off once she made it to Rio, where she was instrumental to the success of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team. During the all-around competition, she scored an impressive 15.100 on the vault, 15.233 on the balance beam, and 14.833 on floor exercise, helping the Final Five earn the gold for the U.S.A.
Laurie truly excelled on the beam, and her poised performance in the individual balance beam competition earned her a score of 15.333, successfully securing the silver medal for her country.
Laurie Hernandez is well-loved for her elegance and artistry in her balance beam and floor routines. But her poise and athleticism helped her excel in more than just gymnastics. In 2016, Laurie competed on Dancing with the Stars with partner Val Chmerkovskiy, and was the youngest ever contestant to win.
Her numerous talents, positive attitude, and determination to keep trying have made Laurie Hernandez an inspirational figure for many girls all over the world. Laurie even went on to write two highly motivational books: “I Got This: To Gold and Beyond” and “She’s Got This,” a New York Time’s best-selling children’s book about chasing your dreams and never giving up.
Laurie Hernandez teaches us that it’s okay to fall, just as long as we pick ourselves back up.
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