Laurie Hernandez

Laurie Hernandez hopeful to return to gymnastics national team camp

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Laurie Hernandez, who still plans to return to gymnastics competition in early 2020, is hopeful to start that process in November by attending her first national team camp in three years.

Hernandez, a Rio Olympic team champion and balance beam silver medalist, returned to training 10 months ago at a new gym with new coaches after two years off.

“I’m really proud of the progress we’ve made,” Hernandez said Saturday while attending the U.S. Championships as a spectator, noting she’s training five hours per day and six days per week. “I do think it’s realistic to be able to compete next year and do well. … Making the Olympic team, that’s definitely why I’m coming back.”

Hernandez is not guaranteed to be part of the November national team camp even if she wants to. Hernandez has not spoken with U.S. high-performance coordinator Tom Forster, but said her coaches have.

Gymnasts not on the national team must request an invite to a camp, usually through a process that involves submitting training videos of routines for review.

Hernandez’s Olympic bid would be an Everest-like climb. She would be returning a year later than Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas did in the last Olympic cycle, when they successfully returned from breaks to become the first U.S. female gymnasts to make multiple Olympic teams since 2000.

Moreover, the Olympic team-event size drops 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.

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Laurie Hernandez: My focus is next year

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Laurie Hernandez will not return to gymnastics competition this summer for the first time since the Rio Olympics, as she had hoped.

Hernandez, who said last August that she wanted to compete in 2019 but needed to find a coach and a gym first, did not enter Saturday’s U.S. Classic, a meet required for her to be eligible for the national championships in August.

“We want to go out there when we’re completely ready,” Hernandez said last month while promoting Alcon’s “Eye Can, Eye Will” campaign, when she said she had not yet decided on whether to compete this summer. “Our focus is definitely early next year.”

USA Gymnastics rules dictate that any gymnast who has not competed in the last two years, nor attended a national team camp, must compete at Saturday’s meet to be eligible for nationals.

Hernandez said she has trained since October at Gym-Max in California, the former gym of 2012 Olympian Kyla Ross. Hernandez trained in her native New Jersey through the Rio Games.

Hernandez repeated over the last year that she’s hoping to join 2016 Olympic champion teammate Simone Biles in a Tokyo 2020 bid. Other Final Five members Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas neither competed since Rio nor shown any signs of a return.

The fifth member of the team, Madison Kocian, retired from elite gymnastics but does compete collegiately for UCLA.

In their absences, Biles continued to stand alone in her comeback last year. Morgan Hurd, the 2017 World all-around champion during Biles’ break, Riley McCusker and Jade Carey have also established themselves as strong candidates for the Olympics.

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Laurie Hernandez faces big decisions before comeback

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BOSTON — Laurie Hernandez still hopes to compete in 2019, but she must find a coach and a gym first. And transition from conditioning to regular gymnastics training.

“Kind of dipping my toe in the water,” she said Friday at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships, where she is strictly a spectator.

Hernandez hasn’t competed since earning team gold and balance beam silver in Rio. Other than Simone Biles, she is the only member of the Final Five openly expressing a desire to return to elite competition next year.

“Because I’m still passionate about it,” she said. “Ever since I was a little girl I’ve always loved it, and I still do. It’s still really important to me.”

Hernandez said she has been on gymnastics equipment every so often but not consistently. She has said hello to new U.S. high-performance team coordinator Tom Forster.

She hopes to pick Aly Raisman‘s brain about coming back. Raisman took almost a year off after the 2012 London Games, then trained for a full year before returning to competition in March 2015.

Unlike Raisman, Hernandez said there is no unfinished business from the Olympics that motivates her.

“I know what I’m getting myself into,” Hernandez said. “It’s kind of like curiosity killed the cat but satisfaction brought it back. Being 16, being so curious, not really knowing what I’m walking into, that was such an interesting experience [in Rio].”

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