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What’s Next For Laurie Hernandez Now That’s She’s Not Going To the Tokyo Olympics?

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In 2016, Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez rose to fame for being part of Team USA’s “Final Five” at the summer Rio Games. Born in New Jersey to Puerto Rican parents, Hernandez was an inspiration to Latinos everywhere who didn’t see a place for themselves in American sports.

Approaching the summer Tokyo Olympics of 2020, many thought she was a shoe-in for a comeback. But fate had a different plan.

First, the 2020 Summer Olympics were postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Then, when training in June for the rescheduled 2021 games, 21-year-old Hernandez overstretched her knee during a warm-up. The injury dashed her dreams of competing in Tokyo.

Despite the major setback, Hernandez says she is at peace with the situation. “Things like this happen, unfortunately, to a lot of people and it’s not just in the gymnastics world. It’s many sports, it’s many jobs and hobbies,” Hernandez said in an interview with USA Today. “Sometimes things just happen and it’s really, really irritating.”

Hernandez has not always been so zen in her approach to her craft. The gold-medal winner says that her mental health journey has not been an easy one.

A year ago, Hernandez revealed that she was the victim of emotional abuse by her (now-suspended) coach Maggie Haney. The abuse was so intense that Hernandez developed “full-on major depression” and an eating disorder that she is still dealing with today. Even now, she says that she still feels like “human soggy bread.”

In a recent interview with PopSugar, Hernandez says that therapy, the support of her loved ones, and antidepressants has helped her get to a better place. “There’s no shame in [taking antidepressants], and I was putting it off for a while because, even though I don’t stigmatize it for other people, I was doing it for myself.”

As for what’s next with Laurie Hernandez, she isn’t sure that she’ll be competing in the 2024 Paris Olympics. Instead, she says she has a newfound passion: acting.

According to her interview with USA Today, Hernandez plans to study theater in college. She is applying to NYU, Carnegie-Mellon, Columbia, Northwestern and USC. Her mindset around gymnastics and competition has changed drastically from years before, when she was in people-pleasing mode.

“If I’m doing anything, it has to be for me,” Hernandez said. “It cannot be to beat anyone. Or do it because it’ll make other people happy or do it because I feel pressure from other people or from myself. It has to be purely because I think I’ll enjoy it, or a certain result and journey might make me feel really good.”

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