The Rise of Laurie Hernandez

The Rise of Laurie Hernandez

For hardcore gymnastics fans, the name Laurie Hernandez is not new. We've been watching the former junior national champion for years, and reveling in her p

Jul 15, 2016 by Justine Kelly
The Rise of Laurie Hernandez
For hardcore gymnastics fans, the name Laurie Hernandez is not new.

We've been watching the former junior national champion for years, and reveling in her perfect toe point and incredible artistry. For many, it was no surprise when she made the Olympic team, and some may have even slated her in there years ago. When she had the beam routine of a lifetime at Trials and her name flashed behind Simone Biles' in the all-around standings, it was clear she was on her way to Rio.

So how did Hernandez get to this spot, and how has she improved over the years? Let's take a look back at her illustrious elite career leading up to her Trials performance.

Elite beginnings

While the Fierce Five were preparing for the last few competitions to prove themselves for the 2012 Olympic team, Hernandez was launching her elite career. Her breakout performance was at the 2012 U.S. Classic, where she placed 11th in the all-around. Her best performance of the night came on beam, where she scored a 14.0. Check out her routine from this competition below. Although she had a few extra steps and wobbles, you can see her form was excellent even then.

Video via USA Gymnastics

Her performance at Classics was enough to qualify her for Nationals, which took place in St. Louis that year. She had rough performances there on both days, and ended up placing 21st overall with a combined total of 101.900. Little did she know that four years later, in the same city, she would improve that combined total by 18.6 points and place third behind Aly Raisman and Simone Biles.

The Junior National Team

Hernandez improved in 2013, and started off the year with several smaller elite competitions. She placed second at both the WOGA Classic and the American Classic, and was later added to the Junior National Team at a training camp in July. At the Secret Classic later that month, Hernandez placed sixth in the all-around and had the highest score on floor with a 14.65. She did even better at the National Championships, where she placed second behind Bailie Key after two days of competition. Her highlights included a 14.8 on floor, 14.75 on beam and 14.9 on vault.

We caught up with this rising star in the fall of 2013:

WATCH Ep1: Something Special
WATCH Ep2: Sassy & Sweet

Introduction to the International Stage

Hernandez got her first international assignments in late 2013, when she competed at the Junior Japan International and the International Junior Mexican Cup with Bailie Key. She performed well in both competitions, winning the bronze in the all-around in Japan and the silver in Mexico.

Battling Injury

2014 was a rough year for Hernandez after she injured her knee on landing a Yurchenko double full. The fall resulted in a dislocated knee, torn ligament and bruised ACL. The injury took her out of the sport for some time, and she was unable to compete at Nationals that year. Hernandez took her recovery slowly, but was determined to get back into the gym. She was cleared to get back to full training at the end of October, and attended a national team camp in November.

I just think people should not count her out
- Maggie Haney, Beyond the Routine, 2014

We headed back to New Jersey in the fall of 2014 to check out the progress of the MG Elite superstar:

Beyond the Routine: MG Elite | Laurie Hernandez (Ep. 2)

Junior National Champion

In her final year as a junior, Hernandez started 2015 with an international competition at Jesolo. Her performance in Italy demonstrated how much stronger she was post-injury with gold medals on bars and floor.

Her first domestic competition of the year was Classics, where she qualified to Nationals by winning the meet with a 58.450. Most notable was her performance on uneven bars, where she improved drastically by scoring a 15.000, the highest score of the competition, with a 6.1 D-score.

Hernandez's success carried through to Nationals, where she was crowned the Junior National Champion. She scored her highest all-around score to-date on the second day of competition with a 59.55. Her high scores of the competition included a 15.1 on her double twisting Yurchenko vault, a 15.2 on uneven bars, and a 14.700 on beam. Her bar routine was the highest-scoring of the competition--re-live it below:

Video via USA Gymnastics

Later that year, Hernandez was again selected to compete at the International Japan Junior Meet, along with MG Elite teammate Jazmyn Foberg. In her final competition as a junior, Hernandez won the all-around with a 58.750.

The best part of gymnastics is being in the air, doing a release move, letting go and then catching that little round bar. Tumbling on a four inch beam and then landing, sticking it, not even moving, and you just know that you can just let go and you know exactly where to land and you land on your feet and you finish like it's the best thing that's ever happened to you.
- Laurie Hernandez, Beyond the Routine, 2013

Into the Senior Ranks - The Only Way is Up

Hernandez competed in her first senior meet on the international stage at Jesolo. She made important contributions to the team's performance on vault and beam, especially. She had the highest D-score on beam out of the entire team and posted an impressive 15.300. She placed third in the all-around with a 58.55, second on vault, and first on beam with 15.25 to outscore teammates Ragan Smith and Raisman. Check out her awesome beam routine below:

Hernandez got her second international assignment of the year in April when she was selected for the Pacific Rim Championships. She competed on all four events for the team, and scored no lower than 14.8 on any event. Her highest was 15.25 on beam.

As the Olympic Trials loomed closer, Hernandez only continued to improve. She competed on bars only at Classics, posting a 15.4 on her upgraded bar routine with a 6.4 D-score. She brought all four events back for Nationals and placed third behind Simone Biles and Aly Raisman.

Fast forward to Olympic Trials, and Hernandez placed second, posting her highest all-around score ever with a 60.85 on day one and 60.300 on day two. It was no surprise that she was named to the Olympic team, and we can't wait to see what she accomplishes in Rio.

The best part of gymnastics is being in the air, doing a release move, letting go and then catching that little round bar. Tumbling on a four-inch beam and then landing, sticking it, not even moving. You just know you can just let go; you know exactly where to land; and you end up on your feet. When you finish, it's like the best thing that's ever happened to you.

I wanna be in the Olympics because I'd just like to represent the country and compete for USA. It's just... that's just what you want to do.
- Laurie Hernandez, Beyond the Routine, 2013

Beyond the Routine: Laurie Hernandez - Episode 1: Something Sweet
Beyond the Routine: Laurie Hernandez - Episode 2: Sassy & Sweet
Beyond the Routine with Laurie Hernandez BONUS EPISODE
Beyond the Routine: The Rise of MG Elite - Episode 2: Laurie
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