Golden Girl

This month gymnastic (and ballroom dancing) fans can meet one of their idols, 2016 Olympic Gold gymnast Laurie Hernandez, who also clinched the Mirrorball Trophy on Dancing With the Stars. In fact, it was dance partner Val Chmerkovskiy who encouraged Rodriguez to attend the Southern Women’s Show. There, guests will have an opportunity to see Hernandez on stage talking about her new book, “I Got This: To Gold and Beyond,”  or purchase tickets for an exclusive meet-and-greet with her. We spoke with the athlete about her journey to the top.

You’re a role model to many young people.

I take it as a big responsibility and do my best to inspire the younger generation as they look and see that everything is possible as long as they work hard and put their minds to it.

What’s one of your favorite Olympic highlights?

Going to the cafeteria to meet with other athletes from around the world—learn what sports they do, where they’re from, their culture. It was amazing to see all the different body types—basketball players from Cuba who were 7 foot 5—and then there was us, who were 5 feet tall.

You epitomize grit. What advice do you give others?

As a kid I had this dream of going to the Olympics, and I worked really hard to get there. Once people hear about my story or read my book, they’ll be able to see that not everything was rainbows and butterflies. I went through a lot of hard spots—injuries, extremely rough workouts. I hope they see [what it’s like] dedicating everything to the sport and having to be homeschooled since third grade. In the end I was able to go to the
Olympics. It truly paid off.

Who else helped you along the way?

My family played a big role in me achieving my goals.  They supported me through rough days. Even the times when it was hard for me to keep going, they told me that they believed in me.

How did you get involved with “Dancing with the Stars?”

Before the Olympics my family and I would watch the show. My dad would always nudge me and say, “Hey, maybe one day you’ll be on the show.” He really believed that, and I love dancing. So when I [heard] I was going to be on the show, my dad was the first person I told.

What’s next?

I would definitely come back to gymnastics.  I would take a small break first because this past year has been a whirlwind. But there are three years until the next Olympics, and I had such a great time in 2016, I would love to experience it again.