Shawn Johnson Mentors Laurie Hernandez

Up-and-comer Laurie Hernandez and four-time Olympic medalist Shawn Johnson have become text and phone buddies these last few months, with Johnson acting as a sounding board whenever the 16-year-old needs it.

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Looking for ways to reassure Hernandez and bolster her confidence, longtime coach Maggie Haney made contact with Johnson, one of Hernandez’s idols since her early days as a gymnast.

Asked if she’d be willing to talk with Hernandez, Johnson didn’t hesitate. She might not have known Hernandez then, but she knew how the teenager was feeling.

“Absolutely. I’ll do it. In two seconds,” said Johnson, who also was 16 when she competed in the Olympics. “I’ve been there, been through it.”

“You’re yourself’s harshest critic. Being able to see someone else’s dream come true and know you’ve seen them grow, it’s cool,” said Johnson

Soon after, at the end of a practice, Haney casually told Hernandez to expect a call that night.

“I was like, ‘OK, who?’ ” Hernandez said. “She was like, ‘You’ll really like who it is.’ I was like, ‘OK, who?’ She was like, ‘Do you want me to tell you?’ I was like, ‘Yeah! Tell me.’

“Once she said it was Shawn, I was high-key freaking out, like,” Hernandez paused, sucking in her breath as if she were hyperventilating. “Definitely fan-girled over that.”

They talked about anything and everything, with Johnson assuring Hernandez that whatever she said would stay between them.

Hernandez isn’t lacking for a support system. She’s the youngest of three in a close-knit family, and Haney is a de facto member of that family after coaching her for a decade.

Laurie Hernandez

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