The Puerto Rican gymnast became the first U.S.-born Latina to make the team since 1984 on Sunday night. Cuban-born gymnast Annia Hatch did compete in 2004 for Team USA, but that still makes Hernandez only the third Latina in history to make the team and the first Boricua.
Hernandez, who was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, wowed audiences during the Olympic Gymnastics Trials thanks to her expressive performances she’s been nicknamed “the human emoji” and her always on beat floor routine. Not to mention, the 16-year-old is one of the youngest gymnasts on Team USA’s Rio squad.
After her first day at Olympic trials, Hernandez told reporters she didn’t feel extra pressure to succeed because of her heritage but instead felt happy to be able to represent her culture.
“I don’t see it as pressure, at all,” she said. “I see it as such an honor to just in some sort of way represent Puerto Rico and Hispanics and all the girls out there. You know what, I don’t think that being Hispanic, being Black, being white — I don’t think that limits you to anything. I think everyone should just go for what they want.”
And Hernandez certainly is going for what she wants, she’s a rising star on the team due to her charismatic personality and solid performances on the balance beam.
Hernandez won’t be the only Boricua representing the good ole U-S-of-A at Rio, John Orozco will also compete in Brazil for the men’s gymnastics team. The Bronx-born gymnast, who competed on the 2012 London Olympic team, broke down after qualifying for the team in June, overcoming multiple emotional and physical setbacks months prior.
We’ll certainly be looking out for their Puerto Rican star power on their road to Rio.