Laurie Hernandez is proving to be the future of U.S. Gymnastics…
The 16-year-old Puerto Rican gymnast, who helped the American team win the gold in the women’s gymnastics competition, has beamed her way on the medal podium on her own at the 2016 Rio Games.
Hernandez capped a rollercoaster Olympic with a silver medal of her own on balance beam, eclipsing teammate Simone Biles in the apparatus final on Monday.
Hernandez, the youngest member of a team that also includes 2012 London Games veterans Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas, has held her share of the spotlight here with ups and downs that her coach freely acknowledges.
An internet GIF of Hernandez winking at judges before her floor routine last week has made the rounds online, and the Old Bridge native’s animated personality and potential longevity in the sport figure to open more doors for her after the Olympics. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton adapted her campaign slogan to root for Hernandez on Twitter, announcing #ImWithHernandez. John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars, also tweeted his congratulations, to the delight of Hernandez, who cites the book as a favorite.
Despite Hernandez’s growing profile, the U.S. team’s initial qualification-round lineup gave Biles, Raisman and Douglas a shot at getting into the individual all-around final, while Hernandez was left on the sidelines rooting for them. Biles and Raisman went on to take gold and silver in the all-around, respectively.
That was a blow for Hernandez, who has beaten Raisman and Douglas in competition at times in the past year, and who was left with her one chance for an individual medal on beam. But, that didn’t seem to dampen her experience throughout the Games.
“She’s going home with two medals, a gold and a silver. That’s amazing. This is her first really major international competition,” says Maggie Haney, Hernandez’s coach.