Laurie Hernandez‘s comeback will become official in two weeks when she participates in a USA Gymnastics national team camp for the first time since she last competed at the Rio Olympics.
Hernandez’s agent, plus USA Gymnastics high-performance team coordinator Tom Forster confirmed this week that Hernandez accepted an invitation to the camp in Sarasota, Fla.
Hernandez, a Rio Olympic team gold medalist and balance beam silver medalist, said in August that she hoped to attend the November camp and return to competition in early 2020. She alluded to the November camp in a tweet last week. She has said she hopes to make the Tokyo Olympic team.
“If she can do what she did then [in 2016], she would be in the mix,” Forster said.
Forster described the camp as an offseason, working camp. Gymnasts won’t have to demonstrate full routines. Rather, their hardest tumbling pass, a vault and a couple of skill sequences on balance beam and uneven bars.
“Coaches share with us plans on skills and routines for next year, and we help them,” Forster said. “That’s part of the camp, and that’s why Laurie wants to be there. It gets her and her coaches exposed to current rules and trends.”
Forster said he did not request Hernandez to submit training videos to show readiness to be invited to camp. Her showing up to the U.S. Championships in August as a spectator, and conversing with him, and being an Olympic medalist, was enough. Hernandez said then that she hoped to compete in early 2020, but Forster said nothing has been set yet.
She is not a national team member (yet), and Simone Biles and others from last month’s world championships team are excused from this camp.
“She’s very aware of what the skill level is that she’s going to be competing against,” Forster said. “If she says she’s ready to come to camp, I know she knows what she’s up against as far as what skills people are doing.”
Hernandez, a 19-year-old New Jersey native, returned to training about one year ago at a new California gym with new coaches after two years off.
In the last Olympic cycle, Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman took breaks, but they returned earlier than Hernandez, competing again more than a year before the Rio Games. They both made the five-woman team for Rio.
But previous comebacks did not work out. 2008 Olympians Nastia Liukin, Shawn Johnson, Alicia Sacramone, Chellsie Memmel and Bridget Sloan all attempted to make the 2012 team but, for various reasons, did not make the cut.
Hernandez faces this different situation: Olympic team-event sizes drop from five gymnasts in 2012 and 2016 to four in 2020, putting a greater emphasis on gymnasts who can perform well on all four apparatuses.
The U.S. can also qualify up to two more gymnasts for individual Olympic events only. Jade Carey appears on her way to locking up one of those spots. The other spot, which would be up to a USA Gymnastics committee to dole out, will likely go to a gymnast who is strong on multiple events in case she needs to be called up for the four-woman team event in case of an injury.
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