- Laurie Hernandez took two years off from gymnastics after winning a gold and silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
- The 19-year-old announced her comeback in October 2018 while doing press for her new children’s book, “She’s Got This.”
- Hernandez doesn’t have a competition marked as her first during her comeback, but her goal is to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
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It had been over two years since gold and silver medalist Laurie Hernandez trained competitively in gymnastics when she announced her comeback in October 2018, but that time off was nothing short of busy.
The 19-year-old from Old Bridge Township, New Jersey took hold of many of the opportunities she was given post-Olympics.
She won a Mirror Ball Trophy on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” with professional dancer Val Chmerkovskiy, was a co-host on the inaugural season of NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior Junior,” and has also published two books.
Her first book was a memoir titled “I Got This” about her journey through 2016 Rio Olympics, and her second is a children’s book released last year, “She’s Got This,” encouraging kids to chase their dreams.
“My life changed drastically [after the Olympics],” Hernandez told Business Insider. “I had so many opportunities that I had hoped for ever since I was a little kid … It tugs at my heart. The goal is to keep that going and to keep spreading positivity while also doing the sport and all the things that I love to do.”
That time frame was not only a chance for Hernandez to give herself a physical and mental break, but also allowed her body an opportunity to grow. After Rio in 2016 and 11 years of competitive gymnastics, Hernandez was 16 years old, and her body was changing at the peak of puberty.
“It was giving myself time to grow and to embrace the body that I’ve been given,” Hernandez said. “Embracing that has really been a big part of the journey.”
As Hernandez sets her eyes on Tokyo, she’s also embracing a new mantra.
Famous for her ‘I got this’ mantra during Rio, Hernandez is serving as an ambassador for Alcon Dailies Total 1 contact lenses for a new campaign called “Eye Can, Eye Will.” As part of the campaign, people can create their mantra on EyeCanEyeWill.com using the Mantra Maker.
“Going out and competing, it can be really nerve-racking sometimes, and those mantras are ways for me to comfort myself,” Hernandez said. “I have post-it notes or sticky notes all over my bedroom wall and my bathroom mirror and on my doors just to motivate me and get excited to go out and try something new.”
Those mantras have come in handy in training, as well. Her comeback has been a journey in itself, with some events coming naturally and others taking some more work.
The uneven bars have been challenging as she regains her abilities, but it isn’t something Hernandez is too concerned.
It was the balance beam, that four-inch width of space that she won a silver medal for at Rio, that came naturally.
“I just remember standing on it and feeling really comforted and almost at home,” Hernandez said.
“Ever since coming back, I used to be so afraid of competing it and practicing it and doing it. Now it just feels like my own. Beam routines are a minute and 30 seconds long, and that’s a minute and 30 seconds that I really get to zone in on what I’m doing … It feels good.”
She’s also gotten tips from teammate Aly Raisman, who trained for Rio in a short period, as well. The two were part of the “Fierce Five” that competed together that year.
“Coming back is actually really difficult, and when you have someone who’s already done it, it’s really helpful to hear how they did it and the things that they struggled with because it makes you feel like the things that you’re going through [aren’t] so bad,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez is currently training five to six days per week, with her sixth day being her choice of boxing, cycling, yoga, etc.
At the moment, she doesn’t have an event she plans for making her competitive return. She originally had the goal of competing this summer, but she and her coaches don’t intend on doing so if they don’t feel she is entirely ready.
When that would be is up to Hernandez and her coaches to decide, but if she’s sure of anything in her competitive return, it’s this
“We’re going to come out with a bang.”
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