While dancing her foxtrot with pro partner Val Chmerkovskiy, the 16-year-old Olympic gold medalist wiped away tears after watching the introductory package that revealed her grandmother, Brunilda Hernandez, died just days ago.
Earlier in the week, Laurie visited her grandmother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, during a visit home. “I’m extremely close with my grandma. Growing up she would always do my hair. She was always the one to make me chocolate milk or rice when I came home,” Hernandez told cameras of her relationship with her grandma.
During Laurie’s visit, her grandmother told her, “When you come back, you show [the Mirrorball Trophy] to me. ‘Look what I win!’ ”
“I’m very, very, very proud. Very, very proud of her,” Brunilda told cameras.
“I kind of feel bad because I’ve been away from home for so long, so I haven’t really been able to see her as much as I used to,” Laurie said while wiping away tears, and added before her grandma passed away, “And she’s not really doing so well. But I think I’m going to see her soon.”
Unfortunately, a day after Laurie’s interview, her grandmother passed away.
Before the duo took the floor to perform on semifinals week, Val could be seen covering Laurie’s ears and holding her tight to his chest in an attempt to protect her from watching the video. But although the athlete attempted to stay strong, audiences could see Laurie wipe away tears multiple times during her dance, including breaking down at the end in Val’s arms.
Although the performance was emotional for Laurie, the judges were impressed with the pair’s dance — and awarded them a 30/30.
Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.