Lauren “Laurie” Hernandez is headed to Rio after landing a spot on Team USA on Sunday (July 10). The New Jersey native joins reigning Olympic all-around champion Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and Madison Kocian on one of the most diverse gymnastic teams in Team USA history. Here are five facts you should know about the rising star:
She’s the first Puerto Rican to represent Team USA in the Olympics:
In 1980, Mexican-American Olympian Tracee Talavera made history as the first Latina to grace the beam for Team USA in the Olympics. Now, 12 years after Cuban American gymnast Annia Hatch followed in Talavera’s footsteps in 2004, Laurie Hernandez reminds us that Latina representation still matters as the first Puerto Rican to earn a coveted spot on the all-star squad.
Extremely honored to say I’ll be representing team USA at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics. I want to thank God, cause with God nothing is impossible. I definitely want to thank @maggiehaney26 for staying by my side since 2005 and dealing with me every day in the gym haha! As much as a sacrifice I make for this sport, you make as much for me every day and I’m so grateful. S/o to my family and friends for being so supportive of me for the past few years; and all the doctors that have helped me stay in one piece! I can’t wait to take on this new chapter in my life!💘🇺🇸🇧🇷
She’s the youngest member on the team:
With a team average of 19.2 years, Hernandez is the youngest member to join the US Olympic Women’s Gymnastics Team after celebrating her 16th birthday in June.
She quit ballet to pursue gymnastics:
At the tender age of four, Hernandez asked her mom if she could try gymnastics after growing bored with ballet after one year. It wasn’t until 2012 that she created a buzz for herself with this dynamic floor exercise at the Secret U.S. Classic:
By 2013, she flipped her way to second place at the Junior National Olympics. The following year didn’t offer as much promise as the up and coming star was forced to sit out of the competitive season in light of a fractured wrist and a series of injuries thereafter, but she made an effortless comeback at the 2015 P&G Championships.
She dominates on the beam:
Laurie shines on the floor, but if you want to see her at her best, look no further than the balance beam for a close to perfect delivery.
Now that she’s back in full force, she hopes to be a role model to Latinos:
As Laurie sets her eyes on Rio, she hopes that her Olympics journey inspires the next wave of Latino athletes to come. “Si Dios lo quiere (if God wishes), to represent the U.S. as the only Latina gymnast would be such an honor,” she told The Guardian. “I feel I could be a role model to other Hispanic gymnasts interested in the sport but I also want them to understand the importance of being focused, determined, and not giving up, despite all the struggles.”
A photo posted by Laurie Hernandez 💫 (@lauriehernandez_) on