It’s hard to imagine a year better than 2016 for Laurie Hernandez.
The teenage gymnast nabbed a spot on the U.S. Olympic team and rocketed to international fame after winning gold with the “Final Five” in Rio, in addition to an individual silver medal on balance beam. Just a few weeks later, she arrived in Los Angeles to compete on Dancing With the Stars with Val Chmerkovskiy and won show after being a standout performer from the first week.
She released her first book, I Got This, in January, embarked on the Dancing with the Stars tour with the professional cast, and has been jetting off for appearances and partnerships. The most recent highlight: Teaming up with her mom, Wanda Hernandez, for the Febreze for Walmart campaign video.
“Life has been a really big whirlwind, but it’s been a lot of fun,” she says. “I travel so much, and I’m constantly doing things that I love, but it’s just me. So being able to do this with my mom, it’s really special.”
Wanda has been a grounding force for Hernandez throughout her life, including the high-pressure moments in her gymnastics career.
“She taught me to be grateful for every moment,” says Laurie. “There was one competition where I fell multiple times, and it was a really big meet. She just said, ‘Look at where you are, let’s celebrate.’ And we got ice cream.”
It’s a pattern for Hernandez and her mom: When she’s too tough on herself, her mother reminds her to have patience.
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“She knows that I’m a perfectionist, and tells me that I have to be patient with myself,” says Laurie. “We’re all different, so even though someone is getting a skill before you, it doesn’t mean that you’re not good enough, it just means you have to wait a little bit, and the skill will come when it comes.”
And Mom has plenty of reasons to be proud.
“To watch Laurie, I forget that she’s actually 16,” Wanda tells PEOPLE. “She just continues to dream and fulfill her dreams. She’s just a go-getter and she’s always planning for the next thing, while she’s embracing everything in front of her.”
Those dreams are just getting started. As for whether Laurie will make a run for the next Summer Olympics in Tokyo in 2020, “I think so,” she says. “I had such a good experience in 2016, and I’d love to experience that again.”