It all started with the “wink.” It summarized the spirit and confidence of a 5-year old Puerto Rican girl who hated ballet and looked at gymnastics as the thing the big girls were doing. Laurie Hernandez, now 16, completed the journey with a dominant performance in her first international level competition in Rio.
The 2016 Olympics are already about the wink. The girl who fractured her wrist, dislocated her kneecap, tore her patella ligament, and bruised her MCL in a single vault jump worked for a year to return to the sport she felt from first sight. She returned but was sidelined briefly again. How much does one want something? It’s measured by the obstacles in the path.
It was the wink that announced that Laurie was back as she won a spot on the Olympic team in August of 2015, which included members she admitted she “fangirled” over. Her face can show a great range of emotions which earned her the affectionate nickname, the “Human Emoji.” She also made history as the first U.S. born Hispanic to make the gymnastic team since 1984 and a girl named Tracee Talavera.
“It means the world to me,”
Laurie reflected, ”
It’s pretty cool but never would I have thought I would be sitting in this chair talking to you guys
(the media in attendance.)
But it was a simple wink that said Laurie Hernandez belonged. Then she went out and redefined the floor exercises from the boring repetitions it had become.
“I’m like a little firecracker,”
Laurie explained. But she also excelled in the other three events and together with her teammates stood on the podium as gold-medal winning champions.
“This is insane,”
“These girls are such an inspiration, especially to me. Four years really matures you.”
Don’t be surprised to see “the wink” on a cornflake box or making the celebrity rounds as the U.S. has found a new face to gush over. A Latina face. A winners face.