Laurie Hernandez is swapping out a balance beam for a microphone at the postponed 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The 2016 Olympic gold medalist missed this year’s U.S. Olympic Trials after injuring her left knee during warm-ups at the U.S. nationals in June. While Hernandez’s injury halted her goal of making Team USA and a chance at a second Olympic appearance, she will still be in attendance as a commentator.
Hernandez will join NBC’s Olympic coverage team in Tokyo as an analyst. As a competitor first, however, watching her teammates chase their dreams on the Olympic stage was one thing she didn’t know how she’d cope with.
"Originally I was like, 'Am I strong enough to do that? That's gonna really hurt,' " Hernandez told USA Today Sports. "But you know at the end of the day, I did want to try out my commentating shoes and I think it would be kind of great for future stuff, too."
Hernandez broke the ice for her commentating debut during the U.S. Olympic Trials – an event she hoped to compete at.
"I think just from doing so many interviews and so many media-related kind of things and having kind of a formal conversation with somebody on camera talking about a sport that I'm so heavily ingrained in, it just felt very natural,” Hernandez said.
This isn’t the first time the 21-year-old gymnast has proved she is more than an athlete by stepping out of her comfort zone on the mat. Following her 2016 Olympic debut and securing the team gold and individual silver on the balance beam, she joined "Dancing with the Stars." At just 16 years old, she handled the pressures of the 11-week competition on top of the loss of her grandmother while also winning Season 23 alongside professional dancer Valentin Chmerkovskiy.
Today, Hernandez is heavily involved in One Mind, a non-profit dedicated to brain health research and advocacy. She has been named the "One Mind Champion," reminding people that “being a champion is more about mindset than medals. Facing mental health challenges day in and day out is an extraordinary feat.”
As Hernandez steps into this new role at the Tokyo Games, she says she is willing to provide advice to Team USA as well. As the youngest athlete on the 2016 team, she says she's rooting for this year’s youngest athlete on the team, 18-year-old Sunisa Lee. While Lee’s goal in Tokyo is to help Team USA win back-to-back gold medals, former Olympic gymnast Hernandez has a different goal that she’s eyeing as a studio analyst.
“I just want the Games to be as fun for those listening as it would be for either us competing or us letting everybody know what's happening.”