Ralphie Report: Laurie Hernandez is looking good in ‘Dancing With The Stars’
We learned on Monday night’s “Dancing With The Stars” that last week, Laurie Hernandez’s grandmother passed away after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
I chatted with the gold medalist last Thursday, coincidentally enough ahead of her “homecoming” show at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. on the “Kellogg’s Tour Of Gymnastics Champions.” There was no hint in her voice of anything afoot. Hernandez was the bubbly, outgoing 16-year-old that virtually everyone who has come in contact with her has described.
“For this ‘Kellogg’s Tour,’ it’s more of a show; it’s not so much a competition,” she said, contrasting pressure and preparation of the 36-date trek with the enormity of representing the U.S. in the Rio Olympics. “It’s a lot more enjoyable just because we have built-in dances and there’s an extra bar routine number we do, and there’s a lot of lights and a lot of cool outfits going on.”
It certainly sounded like despite her packed schedule with flights to Los Angeles weekly for “DWTS” that Hernandez was enjoying herself. The tour, which earlier this month stopped in Philadelphia, wrapped up last weekend in Boston.
Now the “Final Five” star will compete for another piece of hardware: the mirror ball trophy. “Dancing With The Stars” has a great lineage of athletes, especially gymnasts, who have done well. This year alone, three of the four finalists come from sports: a NASCAR driver, a former NFL wide receiver and the Olympian. And while Hernandez credits her stamina as a reason she has been able to adapt, she was also quick to point out that there has been a learning curve.
“I’m not used to having to dance in heels,” she explained. “I’m always barefoot in gymnastics so my center of balance is completely off when I’m dancing. Also, dancing with a partner is pretty difficult too. I keep stepping on him!”
Matter of fact, Hernandez admitted that she once thought she broke Val Chmerkovskiy’s toe during practice. She didn’t, and now the two have a chance to win the “DWTS” championship.
And while Hernandez will take a break for the holidays following the show, she’ll be keeping plenty busy in the foreseeable future. The Old Bridge, New Jersey-native will release an autobiography next year. There are also those 2020 Olympics.
“I would love to come back,” she said regarding the prospects of representing her country again. “I do love the sport. It’s also really hard to plan things just because they pick who goes on the team that year. Also, I have so many great opportunities coming up so, I’m kind of just taking it one day at a time.”
Regardless of what she decides, her grandmother, Brunilda, will surely be watching over her from above with a smile.
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