By Anna Rose Johnson

This week, we caught up with 2016 Olympic gold medalist and Dancing with the Stars champion Laurie Hernandez to learn more about her plans for returning to elite competition.

Since her fabulous performance in Rio, where she won a team gold medal and a silver on balance beam, the 17-year-old has been enjoying life outside the gym. “A few of my favorite moments [after Rio] would include Dancing with the Stars, the DWTS tour, and my book!” says Laurie, whose autobiography I Got This: To Gold and Beyond became a New York Times bestseller. “I’ve also been able to participate in a part of Disney’s Stuck in the Middle, and it was incredible!  Being able to have these opportunities has meant the world to me, and I feel like I’ve matured so much because of [them].” Laurie is scheduled to appear at camps such as International Gymnastics Camp this summer, and she’s also been encouraging people to get active in celebration of the upcoming Olympic Day. In addition to promoting the Alzheimer’s Association and St. Jude’s Research Hospital, she’ll be the maid of honor at her sister Jelysa’s wedding this July.

Although she hasn’t yet returned to gymnastics training, Laurie told us that she’s “still working out in a regular gym” and keeping up with running and strength training. “But I plan on easing back into [gymnastics training] at the end of the summer!” she adds. “I think mentally and physically I needed a break, but I’m ready to get back at it soon!”

Laurie explains that once she resumes training, her first focus will be to get back into shape. “After I’m confident enough with the routines, I can start competing, but I’m definitely going to take my time coming back, so that way there [will be] no errors/injuries.” Laurie, who told us she will definitely “focus on beam and floor” when she returns, says that the option of competing all-around again will depend on “how strong my body is in a comeback.”

The trademark artistry and expressive dance that propelled Laurie to stardom will make a comeback as well. “After being on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, I’m hoping to add a new style to my routines and add more artistry!” she enthuses. “The show opened up my mind [to] new opportunities for choreography and expressing myself.”

Because she turned senior the year of the Olympics, Laurie has not had the opportunity to compete at a World Championships, and she’d like to make a Worlds team during her comeback. “I have never been to one, so I’d love to experience that!” Beyond Worlds, the 2020 Olympics are still on Laurie’s radar as well. “I definitely think about 2020 often,” she says. “I had such a great experience in 2016 and I would love to experience that again; but at the same time, I’m going to take it day by day.”

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Anna Rose Johnson writes about women’s artistic and rhythmic gymnastics. She loves Whippets, brownies, and full-twisting double layouts. Her writing portfolio can be viewed at: https://annarosejohnson.contently.com