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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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GYM NATIONALS: TV/Stream Schedule | Where Are The Final Five?

Simone Biles is back, but what about the rest of the Final Five?

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Though Simone Biles returns to gymnastics meets this summer, her 2016 Olympic champion teammates have not competed on the elite level since Rio.

That could change next year.

None of Gabby DouglasAly RaismanLaurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian have announced a retirement from the sport.

If any is to return for a Tokyo 2020 run, Douglas and Raisman showed in the last Olympic cycle that it helps to come back at least a year before the Games.

That in mind, a look at where each gymnast stands:

GYM NATIONALS: TV/stream schedule | Biles eyes history

Gabby Douglas
2012 Olympic all-around champion
2012, 2016 Olympic team champion

Douglas has been largely silent on any possible comeback plans the last two years. She said last summer that she was still getting drug tested — an indicator that a top-level Olympic sports athlete has not retired — and that a decision on returning was “up in the air.”

In the last Olympic cycle, Douglas returned to training less than a year after the 2012 London Games and bounced around the country before landing in Ohio and returning to competition in March 2015.

“This time is different because I’ve been to two Olympics, and I always wanted to go to two Olympics,” Douglas said last summer. “But right now since I’ve been doing gymnastics for 14 years, I am taking this time off, especially growing into my own person.”

Aly Raisman
2016 Olympic all-around silver medalist
2012, 2016 Olympic team champion
2012 Olympic floor exercise champion

In the last year, Raisman shifted focus from a possible comeback to raising awareness following the revelations of Larry Nassar‘s sexual-abuse crimes. Raisman, Douglas, Biles and Kocian said in the last year that they are Nassar survivors.

In June, In Style magazine reported after an interview with Raisman that she “probably won’t compete at the 2020 Olympics.”

Back in September 2016, Raisman said on “Ellen” that she planned to take a year off after the Rio Games and then return, as she did after the 2012 Olympics. But so much has changed since then.

Laurie Hernandez
2016 Olympic balance beam silver medalist
2016 Olympic team champion

Of the four on this list, Hernandez appears the most likely to come back. Not just because she’s the youngest by three years at 18.

Hernandez’s agent said in March that the gymnast planned to return to training in 2019, five months after Hernandez said she hoped to compete in 2018.

Hernandez and Biles would try to join Douglas and Raisman as the only U.S. women to make multiple Olympic gymnastics teams since 2000, when Amy Chow and Dominique Dawes did so.

Madison Kocian
2016 Olympic uneven bars silver medalist
2016 Olympic team champion

Kocian has competed often since Rio, but all at the college level rather than on the elite stage. She has no plans to return to elite competition, according to The Associated Press.

The Texan did a full freshman season for UCLA in 2017 with a torn labrum and partially torn rotator cuff in her shoulder that required surgery before her recently completed sophomore year.

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MORE: Biles details lip tattoo

Simone Biles, Laurie Hernandez respond to bobsledder’s challenge

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Simone Biles called it “easy money.” Laurie Hernandez said “NO WAYY” (Update: Then did it anyway).

Olympic bobsledder Sam McGuffie challenged the gymnasts, plus Aly Raisman, to what he called the back flip box jump challenge via Twitter.

McGuffie has long been known for athleticism. While playing Texas high school football, a YouTube video of his highlights was uploaded in 2007 and garnered more than three million views. The running back became known for hurdling defensive backs.

McGuffie signed and played for Michigan, then transferred to Rice after one season. He wasn’t drafted by the NFL but signed with the Raiders in 2013 and played in two preseason games.

McGuffie bounced around NFL practice squads and in the CFL before turning to bobsled in 2015. He has been part of the U.S. national team for three seasons.

He pushed for Codie Bascue in PyeongChang, finishing ninth in the four-man and 25th in two-man.

Biles and Hernandez’s accomplishments are well-known as members of the Final Five. Biles also showed her athleticism with this ridiculous rope climb and backflip off a wall.

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MORE: Hernandez plans gymnastics comeback