Interview: Wanda Hernandez, Mother of Lauren Hernandez
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Due to high media interest, USA Gymnastics conducted an interview with Wanda Hernandez, mother of 2016 U.S. Olympian Lauren Hernandez. Following is the full transcript.

On the Olympic selection process…

Oh my gosh, it is a tough process. I was just trying to contain my emotions. There was a lot of praying, breathing and believing. I keep telling Laurie, ‘Just pray, breathe and believe.’ I found myself having to practice this philosophy a lot with all of the emotion and excitement.

On waiting for the team to be announced…

They were the longest 30 minutes of my life. I was trying to keep myself distracted a little bit by talking to my friends or my husband. It was definitely the longest minutes of my life, and I just filled the time with prayer because I needed to stay calm. The hardest thing to do is stay calm.

On learning Laurie made the team…

Wow! I can’t even describe it. There are no words. I felt like I was in a dream, and I couldn’t believe this dream was real. We were just so happy. We are just so happy for Laurie and the team. It is such an honor that Laurie and her teammates can represent the USA.

On family sacrifices for Laurie’s gymnastics…

The sacrifices have been incredible and so many people work together for Laurie. Sometimes Jelysa [her sister] takes her to the gym, and Marcus [her brother] picks her up. Sometimes Maggie, her coach, drives her to the gym. We all work together.

There are a lot of things that go on outside of the gym. There is also a lot of self-care required for Laurie, like physical therapy and acupuncture. We also have to make sure Laurie is keeping up with her schoolwork because she is homeschooled. A lot of people have the weekends where the children can relax and do certain things, but we just keep moving. Due to our busy schedules, we had to say no to family and friends a lot of times, but they understood our commitment.

On Laurie’s relationship with coach Maggie Haney…

Laurie just loves Maggie. They have an awesome relationship, and Laurie understands Maggie is no nonsense. Maggie is very disciplined, determined, and has a tremendous passion for the sport, especially Laurie’s gymnastics. What makes this relationship work is we all come together to do what we feel is best for Laurie. We work as a team to keep her safe and healthy.

On Laurie’s success in 2016…

As a parent, you always want your child’s dream to come true, but it's so difficult. These girls are all working so hard for only five spots. You just have to hope for it, and you just have to have faith. Laurie and Maggie have been working so hard, and I noticed after P&G Championships that something seemed to come to life in Laurie.

I think it was her trusting herself, her training and her faith. God has a plan and if it is His will, then it will happen. Her belief of faith and her training give her confidence. She has such an incredible drive and determination. She has a fire in her eyes and a drive to succeed that is so obvious, even when facing adversity.

I am beyond proud of Laurie. That girl has taught me tons of lessons. She inspires me. She inspires everyone in the family.

On life after Olympic Trials…

As a family, nothing really has changed. We are still stable and grounded and are appreciative of everyone who has come out and supported her. Maggie always tells us, ‘Don’t jump to any sort of conclusion until she is out there on the floor doing what she needs to do.’ We are just praying that all the girls stay healthy and hoping for the best. It's just staying grounded and wishing the best for everyone who is going to be competing. It is not over yet.

On community reaction to Laurie…

The support and the love for Laurie touched our hearts. There was a celebration for Laurie at the local high school, and the community reaction was amazing. It was incredible! There were people that drove from Florida, Washington D.C., and all over to see Laurie. There were so many people waiting in line that I couldn’t even believe it. I was in awe and touched by all of the support to see Laurie.

The phone is ringing off the hook, and the support is wonderful.  It was also beautiful to see the caring support and well wishes from our community.

On the media and fan reaction to Laurie…

Her smile is so contagious. Her presentation is beautiful, and she looks like she is just having fun. She goes out there, and she just enjoys herself.

Also, I love the way that Maggie puts her routines together to showcase her personality. Her personality shines through in everything she does. She seems to bring a lot of joy to people lives when they watch her.

On family’s plans for Rio…

Laurie’s father and I are going. Jelysa and Marcus are going to stay home. We made Team Laurie shirts to show our support for her.

On Laurie’s heritage…

Laurie is very proud of being a second generation Puerto Rican. The community support has been so huge. Last year, Laurie was getting on the bus after P&G’s and the bus door closed. There was this little Latina girl who was standing by the bus with her parents and looked like she was ready to cry. I asked the girl who she was waiting for, and she said, ‘I’m waiting for Laurie. I really want her to sign my bag.’ I got the bag and knocked on the door of the bus, and Laurie signed it. Ironically, I ran into that same family at Olympic Trials, and she was still carrying the bag that Laurie signed. The mother told me, ‘My daughter has been such a tremendous fan but when your Laurie signed her bag, we had to travel six hours to come and see her at Olympic Trials.’ How incredible is that? What I'm noticing is a lot of Latina families who were not previously following gymnastics are so excited to see Laurie.

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