With poise, and confidence elite gymnast Lauren Hernandez has rapidly risen from the ranks of incredibly talented pool of US elite gymnasts. You wouldn’t expect it, but she just turned sixteen.
“She didn’t feel intimidated and she did what she was prepared for,” said Martha Karolyi, the U.S. national team coordinator. “That’s exactly what you look for, to see if she can handle the pressure and if she feels comfortable with that setting. [At nationals], she proved she can do it.”
Her coach, Maggie Haney, insists her first-ever elite gymnast is “as 16 as they come,” but she knows why that is questioned. “In everything else except for her gymnastics,” she says.
Hernandez has the look and sound of a seasoned vet, and there was no reason to doubt her when she glanced around the arena before the U.S. championships began, just 13 days after turning 16, and said she was not in awe of her surroundings.
“This whole thing is pretty normal,” Hernandez said. “I think the only thing that has really changed is that I’m a senior this year. But besides that, I feel pretty comfortable.”
While Hernandez said she has learned from and continues to be influenced by Biles, Raisman and Douglas, she stops short of the sort of hero worship that would put her on a different plane.
Her teammates are inclined to agree.
“I forget how young Laurie is just because she’s so mature,” Raisman said. “She really does not act like she just turned 16 years old at all. I think gymnastics definitely forces you to grow up, but she’s way mature beyond her years, so I think that’s why she’s been able to be so successful. She’s such a great competitor and she’s so consistent. She proved that as a junior and now also as a senior.”
Both Biles and Douglas said Hernandez is “spunkier” than they were at 16.
“She definitely has more confidence than I had when I was her age, and I think she’s a really good asset to the team just because she’s so bubbly,” Biles said.
“Laurie is a very good-looking gymnast,” Karolyi said. “She is artistic and has good technical work. She also demonstrated pretty good consistency this past year and presented herself very well in major competitions in Italy and Pacific Rim, so yes, she can be a really good complement [to the Olympic team].”