U.S. Olympian Laurie Hernandez capped off her golden 2016 on Tuesday night, winning the finale of season 23 of Dancing With the Stars with partner Val Chmerkovskiy.
U.S. Olympian Laurie Hernandez capped off her golden 2016 with another trophy on Tuesday night, winning the finale of season 23 of Dancing With the Stars with partner Val Chmerkovskiy.
Hernandez, who turned 16 in June, is the youngest-ever winner of the reality dance competition, and the second gymnast to take home the mirror ball trophy following Shawn Johnson's win in 2008.
Hernandez and Chmerkovskiy had been favorites for the title, earning three perfect scores prior to the Tuesday night's grand finale. Clad in golden costumes for their Foxtrot-Argentine tango fusion on Tuesday, they didn't disappoint, earning another perfect score of 40.0.
The pair topped race car driver James Hinchcliffe and professional partner Sharna Burgess. Former Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson and his partner Lindsay Arnold finished third.
Hernandez has had a break-out year in 2016. Long appreciated in gymnastics for her artistry and expression, the fan favorite gained wider fame this summer. In her first year as a senior, she helped the U.S. women win the team gold medal at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, and captured an individual silver on balance beam. She balanced her stint on Dancing With the Stars with the cross-country post-Olympic tour that began in September.
Following her win on Tuesday, Hernandez said it was difficult to compare her medals in Rio and DWTS title.
"The Olympics, as a little kid, it was such a big goal that I created for myself and I was able to push through and make that happen," she said. "I’ve always loved to dance and my passion was dancing as well as gymnastics, so winning the mirrorball (trophy) today was insane and amazing."
Chmerkovskiy, who previously won the 20th season of DWTS with actress Rumer Willis, said Hernandez is an inspiration.
"I wanted to set an example through her, for her generation that anything is possible," he said. "To stay hungry, to stay humble, she's a testament to that."
Hernandez, who trains at MG Elite in New Jersey, said her aim is to do exactly that.
"I do want to inspire others," she said. "When I was a little kid, I looked up to other people, so I hope I can inspire little kids."
It remains to be seen whether or not Hernandez will be back in competition in time for next year's world championships in Montreal. After her win, it was announced that Hernandez would be joining Chmerkovskiy and others on the Dancing With the Stars national tour this winter.
Hernandez is the fifth Olympian to win the coveted Mirror Ball trophy after Johnson, speedskater Apolo Ohno, figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi and ice dancer Meryl Davis.
Read an exclusive interview with Laurie Hernandez in the November 2016 issue of International Gymnast Magazine. To order back issues, or subscribe to the print and/or digital edition of International Gymnast magazine,