Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez remembers that when she was a little girl playing with Barbies with her best friend, she would terrorize her dolls. She didn’t mean to twist their arms off, it’s just that she wanted them to be able to do gymnastics like she did. She has a vivid memory of having done that on a trip her family took with friends.
“I would wake my friend up at 6 in the morning to play with me,” she tells Yahoo Entertainment.
Hernandez, now 18 and the winner of two Olympic medals in women’s gymnastics at the Rio Games in 2016, wouldn’t have that problem today. She has her own, fully posable Barbie. (No more broken arms!) It’s part of the toy company’s Shero line, honoring women who have “broken boundaries to inspire the next generation of girls.” The doll is on sale for $29.99 at Walmart.
“Now girls are gonna be able to go find my doll and look at her and realize she has curls like them too, and if they want to try gymnastics, they can,” Hernandez says. “So I think that Barbie’s doing something incredible here.”
Aside from celebrating her Barbie and the success of her 2017 memoir, New York Times bestseller I Got This: To Gold and Beyond, Hernandez is prepping for the October release of her children’s book, called She’s Got This, and for another turn on a reality competition TV show. The athlete, who famously won Dancing With the Stars in 2016, is co-hosting the new series American Ninja Warrior Junior, which debuts Oct. 13 on cable channel Universal Kids.
“It is just amazing, watching them fly through this course, some of them were getting — I don’t want to spoil it — but some of them were getting very, very fast times,” Hernandez says. “My jaw would drop. We were all cheering. We were all just excited and nervous for these kids, because they had trained a while for it, and they are amazing.”
As a veteran of reality competition shows, Hernandez says the key to making them work is for everyone to let their emotions flow. “I think that expressing that you’re proud of someone or expressing how excited you are to see someone run and letting that actually show, I think that stuff’s important,” she says. “And I think that it’s good for other people to kind of see you let your guard down and see you excited for these kids. I think that’s very important.”
Hernandez had that in mind while preparing for her gig on American Ninja Warrior Junior. She says she’ll be gearing up for a spot at the 2020 Olympics by the end of this year. Already, she’s beginning to eat and work out differently than she has in the off-season.
“It’s really just getting ready to get my body moving again. I am still so passionate about the sport,” says Hernandez, who was part of the gold medal-winning Final Five team and a silver medalist in the individual balance beam competition at Rio. “I love it very much, and I’m excited.”
Still, Hernandez insists that the famous American Ninja Warrior challenge the Warped Wall, which is being repurposed for the spinoff, is intimidating to her.
“That’s something else! You have a limited space to run up, and you have to go up this wall and catch the top and climb all this way up,” says the woman who makes blindly throwing herself through the air above a 4-inch beam look effortless and graceful. “That’s scary!”
Like she says, though, she’s got this.
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