Laurie Hernandez

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Laurie Hernandez eyes return to competition in 2018

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NEW YORK – Laurie Hernandez hardly considers her 14 months away from competitive gymnastics a break.

Since earning Olympic team gold and balance beam silver in Rio, the 17-year-old won “Dancing with the Stars,” authored a book and even enrolled in ballet lessons.

But her most rewarding experience has been speaking at schools. Students have asked her seemingly every question, from when she started taking gymnastics classes (age 5) to whether she climbed trees when she was younger (yes, all the time).

Seeing how many children were inspired by her Rio performance motivated Hernandez as she prepares to return to the sport.

“I didn’t realize at the Olympics how many people were truly watching,” Hernandez said Wednesday night at the annual Women’s Sports Foundation Salute to Women in Sports. “Now I’m excited to get back into the gym.”

Hernandez recently added handstand holds, back tucks and front flips to her conditioning program, in addition to continuing to run and lift weights.

“It’s a little difficult, but it’s fine,” she said. “I’ll push it a little more after the holidays.”

She has her eye on returning to competition in 2018.

“That’s definitely the hope,” Hernandez said. “I’m not going to rush anything, but I would love to compete in 2018.”

Hernandez, who said her next goal in gymnastics is to compete at the world championships for the first time and hopefully the 2020 Olympics, has not yet identified her comeback meet.

She noted that Aly Raisman took more than two years off after the London Olympics.

“I know every athlete is different,” Hernandez said. “But I wouldn’t mind following in her footsteps.”

Simone Biles, who has not competed since winning four gold medals in Rio, recently announced that she plans on returning to full-time training Nov. 1 and competition next summer.

“I look up to her, even though we are teammates,” Hernandez said. “I can’t wait to see her out there, but hopefully I’ll be out there with her soon.”

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MORE: Laurie Hernandez explains wink, nervous Olympic moments in book excerpt

Morgan Hurd adds silver medal to resume at World Gymnastics Championships

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Surprise women’s all-around world champion Morgan Hurd heard congratulations from many admirers since accepting her gold medal. But a tweet from J. K. Rowling – author of the bespectacled boy wizard series Harry Potter – surprised her the most.

Rowling called her a “real life hero in glasses.”

On Sunday, she added another medal to her Montreal haul; she captured a silver on beam despite being penalized a tenth of a point for a time violation. Regardless, it would not have been enough to overtake German gold medalist Pauline Schaefer’s score. Her gold medal was the first gymnastics world title for Germany since 1981. Her countrywoman Tabea Alt earned the bronze.

The three women from the Rio podium – the Netherlands’ Sanne Wevers, Laurie Hernandez, and Simone Biles – were not in the field.

Mai Murakami finished fourth in the beam final and the all-around final. She finally broke through in Montreal winning floor gold on Sunday. Previously, Japan’s only women’s floor world medal was a bronze, earned back in 1954.

The U.S.’ Jade Carey earned her second world silver medal in as many days behind Murakami, separated by 0.033 points. Carey, whose father is her coach, performed the best routine 2008 Olympic all-around gold medalist and commentator Nastia Liukin had ever seen from her to earn the medal. Great Britain’s Claudia Fragapane was third.

Ragan Smith had also qualified into the floor final, but her right ankle ligament injury sustained just before the all-around final took her out of apparatus finals as well. Benefiting from Smith’s withdrawal was Canada’s home favorite, and all-around silver medalist, Ellie Black. She couldn’t capitalize on it – Black was eighth in the vault final and seventh in floor finals on Sunday.

Italy’s Vanessa Ferrari, the 2006 all-around champion, crashed and grabbed her ankle at the end of her second floor pass. She did not complete her routine after being carried off the floor by medical staff.

Similarly, the Rio floor medalists – Biles, Aly Raisman, and Amy Tinkler – were not in the field.

On the men’s side, Japan’s Kenzo Shirai brought his medal tally to two golds and a bronze, after winning the fault final over Ukraine’s Igor Radivilov by 0.001.

“In my book, that’s basically a tie,” Liukin commented on the broadcast.

Hansol Kim of South Korea earned the bronze medal.

Shirai took home the vault bronze from Rio, though the gold and silver medalists from the Olympics were not in the field in Montreal.

Rio parallel bars gold medalist Oleg Verniaiev of Ukraine answered Zou Jingyuan’s score of 15.900 with a “money” routine of his own.

“That is the most perfect I have ever seen Oleg look, right there,” gold medalist and commentator Tim Daggett said after Verniaiev’s routine. But it wasn’t enough. Verniaiev earned the silver behind China’s Zou by 0.67 points.

David Belyavskiy, who earlier this week won all-around silver, captured the bronze with a score of 15.266 points.

Croatia’s Tin Srbic captured high bar gold on Sunday with a score of 14.433 points. Srbic’s clean routine was rewarded after an apparatus finals filled with several falls from athletes with more difficulty in their routines. Croatia had never before won a high bar gold at worlds; their previous best finish was a bronze from 2014.

The Netherlands’ Epke Zonderland won high bar gold at the London 2012 Olympics, but a disastrous fall in Rio landed him in seventh place. In Montreal, he nearly repeated the mistake on the same skill, but held on with one hand to avoid the fall. His score of 14.233 earned him the silver, while countryman Bart Deurloo earned the bronze.

MORE: Saturday’s apparatus finals sees 2 more U.S. medals

Simone Biles says she’s back in the gym (video)

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Simone Biles is back in the gym.

In between giggles, Biles said she returned to the gym two weeks ago in an NBCSN interview at the P&G Championships in Anaheim on Friday night.

“I actually started, like, two Fridays ago,” Biles said. “I’m weak. But I’m coming back. I’m just doing conditioning and basics right now.”

Biles last competed at the Rio Olympics, winning five medals, including four golds, for the greatest single-Games medal haul by a female gymnast in nearly three decades. That came after Biles swept every U.S. and world all-around title in that four-year Olympic cycle.

The 20-year-old said late last year and early this year that she planned to return to training in late 2017 or early 2018 with an eye on Tokyo 2020.

“It’s OK to sit out one [year],” Biles said. “I can’t imagine being out on the floor now.”

Biles has not set a return to competition. Her longtime coach, Aimee Boorman, moved from Texas to Florida after Rio.

If Biles makes the Tokyo 2020 team, she can attempt to become the first woman to repeat as Olympic all-around champion since the late Czech Věra Čáslavská in 1964 and 1968.

Gabby Douglas attempted this feat in Rio but did not qualify for the all-around final.

Douglas said in July that she has not decided whether she will return to competition.

Aly Raisman said in September that she plans to return to training after taking 2017 off. Laurie Hernandez said she hopes to go for 2020 but has not set a return to training.

Madison Kocian is the lone member of the Olympic team who has competed since Rio, but it wasn’t on the elite stage. The Texan did a full freshman season for UCLA with a torn labrum and partially torn rotator cuff in her shoulder.

Kocian said in June that she has not decided if she will return to elite gymnastics.

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