At the Rio Olympics in 2016, Laurie Hernandez was the youngest member of the U.S. women’s Olympic artistic gymnastics team at 16 years old. It was her first year as a senior elite gymnast — thus it was the first year she was eligible to compete at an Olympic Games.
Her prowess on balance beam and performance quality on floor exercise helped earn her a spot on the squad and played an essential role in helping Team USA win the team gold. At Rio, Hernandez also earned an individual silver medal on beam.
Five years later, Hernandez is at her second Olympic Games. But, this time, she isn’t there as an athlete chasing gold.
Hernandez is Offering Her Gymnastics Expertise from the Studio
The two-time Olympic medalist is currently at the Tokyo Olympics as a member of the NBC broadcast team. As noted in a press release from NBC Sports Pressbox, Hernandez will be using her first-hand knowledge and experience to provide coverage as a gymnastics studio analyst for “Tokyo Live” on NBC’s streaming service, Peacock. She is one of 180 commentators providing Olympics coverage for NBC.
Tokyo, however, will not be the first time Hernandez will be doing gymnastics coverage for NBC. At Olympic Trials, Hernandez was in attendance, doing sideline work alongside Mike Tirico.
The 2016 Olympic Medalist Tried to Make the Tokyo Olympics
After taking two years away from the sport, Hernandez returned to gymnastics with the goal of making it to a second Olympics. But she ultimately came up short.
In late February, Hernandez competed at Winter Cup, and it was her first competition since the 2016 Games. She debuted a floor routine inspired by the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical “Hamilton,” using the instrumental track from “The Room Where It Happens.” The routine was noticed by Leslie Odom, Jr. — who portrayed Aaron Burr as a member of the original Broadway company.
After Winter Cup, Hernandez participated in the U.S. Classic, where she qualified for the U.S. Championships.
U.S. Championships was an integral competition for all gymnasts, because it would determine who would make it to Olympic Trials and get the chance at making the Olympic team. However, during day 1 of the national championships, Hernandez suffered numerous knee-related injuries while warming up for balance beam.
She went on to compete a watered-down beam routine, but the injuries forced Hernandez to be sidelined for the remainder of U.S. Championships. As a result, she could not qualify to Olympic Trials, thus ending her attempt at making the Olympic team.
Her comeback journey was detailed in the docuseries “Golden” on NBC’s Peacock.
Hernandez also returned to gymnastics as a member of Gym-Max — the Costa Mesa, California-based gym where 2012 Olympian Kyla Ross trained — and as a part not MG Elite, the gym she trained at up until the 2016 Olympics.
In a New York Times article, Hernandez mentioned the emotional abuse she suffered at the hands of her coach at MG Elite, Maggie Haney. Hernandez said the abuse led to her depression and an eating disorder. The Orange County Register reported that, last year, Haney was given a five-year ban by USA Gymnastics — reduced from the original eight years.
She Will Be Going to College Next Year
Hernandez, who has gained a following of more than 700,000 on TikTok, recently revealed in a TikTok post that she will be attending college in 2022. She said she will be studying acting/drama but did not mention which school she will be going to. In the same video, Hernandez also mentioned that she plays guitar and sings.
Last year, Hernandez got some experience with that education. As noted in a tweet from earlier this year, UCLA Extension acknowledged the Olympian’s attendance in its acting and screenwriting classes.
Hernandez is Using Her Voice to Advocate for Mental Health
Hernandez is one of two “Champions” for One Mind, a mental health organization that “accelerates collaborative research and advocacy to enable all individuals facing brain health challenges to build healthy, productive lives.”
Through this partnership, Hernandez plays a role in helping to eliminate the stigma that surrounds mental health and to “inspire vulnerability and strength in others.”
Most recently, One Mind and Hernandez partnered up for the “I Am A Champion Contest.” The contest encourages people to share stories regarding mental health challenges that ultimately made them stronger.
She Hasn’t Been Shy About Her Marvel Fandom
Throughout her comeback this year, Hernandez showed off her love for numerous Marvel superheroes — from Black Panther to Scarlet Witch to Captain America — through leotards inspired by the characters.
The self-proclaimed “superhero nerd” — as she describes herself in her Twitter bio — even got to attend an early screening of “Black Widow” thanks to Disney.
She has made numerous TikTok videos reenacting scenes and discussing content from Marvel Studios’ latest film.