Romper

5 Facts About Laurie Hernandez, Team USA's Youngest Gymnast Going To Rio

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

With the 2016 Olympic Games just days away from its opening ceremonies in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, there's one member of Team USA that's already making headlines: 16-year-old Laurie Hernandez. Amazingly, this is Hernandez's first year competing in the senior levels of gymnastics — and she's already making history on the U.S. Olympic team. Hernandez is the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team's youngest member, having only just qualified for the team when she turned 16 on June 9th this year. As she makes her Olympic debut in the coming weeks in Rio, fans have begun to learn more facts about Laurie Hernandez and her dazzling ascent in the world of competitive gymnastics.

Hernandez has an impressive collection of gymnastic medals already at just 16-years-old. She began her elite career just four years ago, coming in 21st place in the all-around at the 2012 U.S. Classic, when Hernandez was only 12-years-old. Her junior elite career would be short lived, as her last junior-level competition took place in Yokohama, at the 2015 International Junior Japan Meet, where she took home the gold for all-around and floor exercise. Hernandez placed third in her all-around at the National Championships in June, and came in second behind Simone Biles at the U.S. Olympic trials earlier last month. Here are 5 more facts about Laurie Hernandez that are just as impressive.

1. She's the first Puerto Rican ever on Team USA at the Olympics.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
SAN JOSE, CA - JULY 10: (L-R) (Front Row:) Lauren Hernandez, MyKayla Skinner, Simone Biles, Ragan Smith (Back Row) Ashton Locklear, Alexandra Raisman, Madison Kocian, and Gabrielle Douglas pose for a team photo after they were selected for the Olympic Team following Day 2 of the 2016 U.S. Women's Gymnastics Olympic Trials at SAP Center on July 10, 2016 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

While Hernandez resides in Old Bridge Township, New Jersey — her parents, Wanda and Anthony — are from Puerto Rico. She's one of a small group of Hispanic elite athletes that have competed at the Olympic level, including Cuban-American Annia Hatch, who competed in the 2004 games in Athens, and the first Latina U.S. Olympian, Tracee Talavera, who competed in the 1984 Olympic games in 1984.

2. She could have been a ballerina.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
SAN JOSE, CA - JULY 08: Lauren Hernandez competes on the floor exercise during Day 1 of the 2016 U.S. Women's Gymnastics Olympic Trials at SAP Center on July 8, 2016 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Hernandez first started taking dance and ballet lessons when she was just 5-years-old — but she wasn't terribly interested in it. According to her profile at NBC's Olympics coverage website, her parents had to bribe her with candy to get her to keep going to classes, but she switched to gymnastics when she saw the sport on television for the first time:

3. She's had the same coach for her entire gymnastics career.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
SAN JOSE, CA - JULY 08: Lauren Hernandez with Maggie Haney after competing on the balance beam during day 1 of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Women's Gymnastics Team Trials at SAP Center on July 8, 2016 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Even starting gymnastics at only 5-years-old, Hernandez has had the same coach for the past 11 years — Maggie Haney. Speaking to ESPNW.com, Haney said: "I've had her since she was five years old... We have a really close relationship, and I think that's the thing that makes this whole situation work for her."

4. She has a very unique nickname.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
SAN JOSE, CA - JULY 10: Lauren Hernandez competes on the floor exercise during day 2 of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Women's Gymnastics Team Trials at SAP Center on July 10, 2016 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

In their Nov. 2015 issue, International Gymnast Magazine gave Hernandez the nickname "Human Emoji" because of the variety of emotive faces she makes while practicing or competing in the gym. Hopefully we get to see even more Human Emoji faces from Hernandez during the Rio Games.

5. She already has college figured out.

lauriehernandez_ on instagram

Homeschooled since the third grade, Hernandez has already made her commitment for college even though she still has another two years before she'll actually be on campus. In the fall of 2018, Hernandez will be a University of Florida Gator as an NCAA student-athlete. Hernandez announced her University of Florida commitment on Instagram.