U.S. gymnast Laurie Hernandez trains at the Karolyi Ranch Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015, in New Waverly, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
David J. Phillip
August 03, 2016

Rising gymnastics star Laurie Hernandez is turning professional ahead of the Summer Olympics.

The 16-year-old from Old Bridge, New Jersey announced Wednesday she is giving up her amateur status just days before helping Team USA vie for a second straight Olympic gold. Hernandez had verbally committed to competing collegiately at Florida before signing with Shade Global Inc.

Hernandez says it was ''not an easy decision to make'' but it allows her to focus entirely on gymnastics and enjoying the sport she loves.

The U.S. junior champion in 2015, Hernandez put together a strong showing during the US Championships and the Olympic Trials. She finished second to three-time world champion and Olympic teammate Simone Biles at trials while also posting the top score on balance beam.

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