Rio Revisited: Laurie Hernandez (USA)
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First in a series of flashbacks to the 2016 Olympic Games by IG correspondent John Crumlish, who was a gymnastics sports writer for the Olympic News Service in Rio.

Winning team gold was only one of several eye-opening and heart-pounding experiences for U.S. gymnast Laurie Hernandez.

Laurie Hernandez in Rio

"These are all new and great experiences for me," said Hernandez after the U.S. women romped to gold in the team final. "It's all very cool, and I'm just kind of embracing this new part of my life."

Hernandez said the enormity and prestige of Olympic competition caught her off-guard on the day of qualifications.

"The thing that hit me most was when we were marching in for our first event," she said. "My heart just dropped, and I saw everyone cheering, and the arena was so big. I was in shock a little bit, so I had to really calm myself down."

Hernandez was also surprised by the diversity of talent and technique demonstrated by her competitors.

"There's such a variety of gymnastics," she said. "Everyone has their own way of doing things, and I think that's amazing to watch and learn and understand, like 'OK, with this skill, I do it this way and they do it this way.' It's amazing to see all these countries coming together."  

Hernandez, who referred to the nearby three-deep throng of reporters encircling teammate Simone Biles as "crazy," said she was prepared for how her life would change after the Games.

"I think so," said Hernandez, who added an individual silver in the balance beam final. "But all of the girls are telling me, 'No, you don't understand. It's really going to change now.'"

One major life change for Hernandez will bring her back on television this fall. She's set to pair up with pro Val Chmerkovskiy on the new season of ABC's Dancing With the Stars, which debuts September 12 on ABC.  

The September 2016 issue of International Gymnast magazine is a special issue devoted to reports, photos, quotes and results of the Rio Olympic Games. Hernandez is also featured in "Human Emoji" a cover story on Hernandez, in the November 2015 issue. To subscribe to the print and/or digital editions, or order back issues, click here.

Up Next: What rings finalist Dennis Goossens of Belgium really thought of his chances in Rio

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