For Rio Olympic Stars, spotlight hasn’t faded 

USA Today

USA TODAY Sports revisits some of the biggest names in Rio to see how their lives have changed over the last 12 months.

Gymnast Hernandez keeps juggling

On the rare morning she gets to sleep in, Laurie Hernandez often finds herself wondering not so much where she is but how she got there.

A year ago, the country was just getting acquainted with the bubbly 16-year-old, the youngest member of the U.S. gymnastics team. Now she’s an Olympic champion and Dancing with the Stars winner, a crossover celebrity who has made the rounds of red carpets and talk shows.

“Life has been moving so fast,” Hernandez told USA TODAY Sports. “I can’t believe it’s almost been a year. I can’t believe my dreams came true.”

Hernandez won team gold as part of the USA’s “Final Five” and added a silver on balance beam. Her smile and personality — she was nicknamed “The Human Emoji” — made her one of Rio’s breakout stars, and her life has been a blur since.

She juggled her time on DWTS with a nationwide gymnastics tour. She published her biography, hung out with some of the cast members of Law & Order: SVU, her favorite TV show, and has crisscrossed the country making appearances.

Though she hasn’t been training — “my body and my brain just really needed a break” — Hernandez says she hopes to return to the gym at the end of the summer. She also has one more year of high school to finish, and then there’s college.

There’s much to look forward to for someone who’s already accomplished so much.

“Our leotards, which seems a bit silly,” Hernandez said of her favorite memories from Rio. “We put a lot of thought into what leotards we wore at the Olympics. I don’t know why, but that’s one of the biggest things I remember. Just standing on the podium and taking everything in — including my leotard and my warm-up.”

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