Laurie Hernandez: 5 Things To Know About The Youngest Team USA Olympic Gymnast

To some, it would appear that Laurie Hernandez’s gymnastics career took off overnight. As the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team, 16-year-old Hernandez has only been a member of the senior gymnastics circuit since the beginning of the year.

But that isn’t stopping Laurie from taking the gymnastics world by storm. With her quick smile and her flashy style, the New Jersey native is quickly becoming a crowd favorite — and some fans even believe the newcomer will be the biggest breakout star of the 2016 Olympic Games.

Hernandez has joined together with Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, and Madison Kocian as part of the five-member Team USA Olympic squad. Get to know Laurie Hernandez ahead of the Olympic gymnastics competition with these five fast facts below.

1. Hernandez is the first Puerto Rican to represent Team USA in the Olympic gymnastic competition.

Hernandez is the first Hispanic gymnast to rep Team USA since 2004, when Cuban-American Annia Hatch was a member of Team USA. The first Latina to be a member of the U.S. women’s Olympic gymnastics squad was Mexican-American Tracee Talavera in 1980.

Hernandez told The Guardian that she hopes to be a role model for other Latina gymnasts.

“I feel I could be a role model to other Hispanic gymnasts interested in the sport but I also want them to understand the importance of being focused, determined, and not giving up, despite all the struggles.”

2. Laurie got her start in gymnastics when she was 5 years old.

As a 4-year-old, Hernandez was enrolled in ballet, but after only one year Laurie told her mother she was bored and asked to switch to a new sport — gymnastics. She took her first gymnastics class when she was 5 years old, and it didn’t take long for Hernandez to fall in the love with the sport.

“I started off doing dance and ballet, [but] it was pretty boring,” Hernandez told Teen Vogue. “Then I remember watching gymnastics on TV and telling my mom I wanted to do [that], and she put me right in.”

3. Hernandez has had the same coach for her entire gymnastics career.

Laurie took her first gymnastics class at a gym in her hometown of Old Bridge, New Jersey. That’s where Hernandez met her current coach, Maggie Haney, who is still her coach today.

“I think it’s pretty rare that gymnasts start off with a certain coach and they just go as far as I am now with the same coach,” Hernandez told Teen Vogue. “I think that we both learned and [grew] together. It’s pretty awesome to stay together throughout [all these] years.”

4. Hernandez has a unique nickname.

According to People, Hernandez has been nicknamed “the human emoji” because of the many expressions she makes while performing. Laurie’s floor routine has been called “sassy” on more than on occasion, and she frequently has the facial expression to match. People credits International Gymnast Magazine with creating the nickname.

5. Laurie Hernandez: Gymnastics strengths.

While Laurie performs a floor routine that Haney says has been choreographed to “let (Hernandez) be herself,” it’s obvious that Hernandez’s real strength is on the balance beam, where she was nearly perfect at the Olympic trials.