Rounding Off: Laurie Hernandez on needing help from coaches to change her mindset

Plus, Europeans start to take shape and a look back at Amelie Plante at Athens 2004

By Scott Bregman
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

After her first competition since winning gymnastics gold and silver at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Laurie Hernandez made one thing clear: her return to the sport is totally different than her journey to Brazil four-and-a-half years earlier.

This week in an interview on the ‘Anxious Like You’ podcast, the 20-year-old explained in further detail her evolution in the sport after leaving her longtime coach, Maggie Haney, who is currently serving a five-year suspension for verbal and emotional abuse.

One of the biggest changes comes in how she approaches her physical form and the changes her body has undergone after going through puberty and a two-year hiatus from elite training.

“I wasn’t training for the Olympics anymore, I was eating a lot more freely, my body started to change completely,” said Hernandez. “It did that all in the public eye.”

“I remember telling my coaches I got kind of chubby, and my coach was immediately like, ‘No, no, no… the weight that you have now, you’re actually going to be able to hit the floor and you’re gonna go up. The weight that you have now, if you actually relax, the bars are going to do all the work for you and you’re going to get more skills now. The weight that you have now, you’re going to go higher we just need to turn it into muscle,’” explained Hernandez, who now is coached by Jenny Zhang and Howie Liang.

“They were just constantly re-enforcing this, and every time I would say like ‘I don’t feel good today.’ They’d be like, ‘Yeah, but the weight that you have now, this is why you vault better now than you four years ago,’” she continued. “Every time they’d say that, it was like light bulbs. I needed someone turning them on until I could turn them on myself almost.

“It was really interesting to look at that because looking back now, they’re absolutely right. Most of the skills I’m doing now are way better than they used to be because I have muscle to work with and I’m hitting the equipment. It’s been really healing.”

She saw that pay off in late February at USA Gymnastics’ Winter Cup where Hernandez finished fifth on the balance beam. Two weeks later, she competed on all four apparatus at U.S. national training camp. 

Hernandez is expected to next compete at the U.S. Classic, 22 May in Indianapolis. That event will be the final tune-up prior to the U.S. nationals and Olympic trials.

April's European Championships begin to take shape

This week, the European Gymnastics Championships, Europe's Tokyo Olympic Games continental qualifier, began to take shape as European Gymnastics posted the nominative roster.

Though it is subject to change, many big names are expected to compete at the event scheduled for 21-25 April in Basel, Switzerland, including reigning European all-around champion Melanie de Jesus dos Santos (FRA), 2019 World all-around bronze medallist Angelina Melnikova (RUS), 2019 junior world all-around champion Viktoria Listunova (RUS) and 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Larisa Iordache.

On the men's side, Russia's Nikita Nagornyy, the reigning World and European all-around champion, and Artur Dalaloyan, 2018 world all-around champion, highlight the field. Olympic champions Epke Zonderland (NED) and Max Whitlock (GBR) are also expected to compete.

There are four - two for men, two for women - tickets to the Tokyo Olympics up for grabs at the event.

From the vault...

This week, we take a look back at the stellar uneven bars routine of Amelie Plante at Athens 2004. The Canadian earned a 9.475 for her daring routine which included a Def catch and release move.