Interview: Olympian Laurie Hernandez on Contact Lenses, Perseverance, and DWTS!

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We were incredibly fortunate to be given a few minutes to interview Olympian Laurie Hernandez at SECO 2018!

Laurie took gold and silver in gymnastics at Rio in 2016. Then subsequently went on to become the youngest winner on Dancing with the Stars, and a NY Times bestselling author -- all within a span of 18 months!

She is now a spokesperson for Alcon's DAILIES® AquaComfort Plus®
(being fit with lenses at 12 made a major difference in her performance).

CL's aside, I was even more interested in the rest of her story -- she overcame serious injuries on the way to the Olympics (she is one of the few 16 year olds I know with cadaver tissue!)

Enjoy!
 
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Thanks again to Laurie and to Alcon for making this happen -- if the interview sounds like it was impromptu, it is because it was! I had little time to prepare, but her story is a powerful one, so not much preparation was necessary.

I'd never met a gold medalist before, so the big question I grappled with when prepping for the interview: beyond raw talent and hard work, what does it take to get to the top?

The thing that struck me about Laurie wasn't just her drive, but her optimism. The injuries she sustained in training were gnarly, and I think most of us would have packed it in (particularly thinking of our 14 and 15 year old selves.) But her ability to push through and remain optimistic in the face of potential catastrophe is a pretty powerful trait. It is a good reminder for all of us...
 
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Awesome interview Adam. I clearly remember this young lady from the olympics. She was a joy to watch and a shinning role model that exudes enthusiasm.

This interview would be awesome to put on our Facebook page, but I see on YouTube it is linked to all the other ODwire lectures.
 
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This interview would be awesome to put on our Facebook page, but I see on YouTube it is linked to all the other ODwire lectures

You can embed youtube in a facebook post, when the video ends it usually just shows people videos they are interested in -- and regular people AREN'T interested in most ODwire.org content, so by and large unless your patient is in the eye care field, they won't see other stuff from our channel. Remember as interesting as we find it, to outsiders reading an OCT or learning how to use an insurance clearing house is deadly boring :)
 
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Great job Adam. Laurie lives a couple of miles from my office and all tell me she is a great well grounded kid.
 
That was awesone, Adam. I’m a huge fan, so much that I still haven’t deleted the recordings of the Olympics from my DVR. Thanks for sharing!
 
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That was awesone, Adam. I’m a huge fan, so much that I still haven’t deleted the recordings of the from my DVR. Thanks for sharing!

Thanks, she was a really good sport! Gretchyn got a chance to speak with her as well, and managed to actually stick to eye care topics! (I couldn't help myself though -- I had so many questions about the olympics, DWTS, etc, etc.)

It is even more remarkable to think that she competed AND WON both at the Olympics and DWTS with a knee that had been recently reconstructed with cadaver tissue. I get a hangnail -> in bed for 3 days. This is what separates the Olympians from the rest of us!
 
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This is what separates the Olympians from the rest of us!

Ohhh. For a moment I thought you were going to say: This is what separates the men from the boys. My uncle who was a marine for 8.5 years used to say that all the time.
 
Ohhh. For a moment I thought you were going to say: This is what separates the men from the boys. My uncle who was a marine for 8.5 years used to say that all the time.

Laurie is small in stature, but from watching her gymnastic exploits, i'm certain with even one good knee she could have picked me up and tossed me out the window without much of a problem. It is hard to wrap ones mind around the sort of dedication you need to succeed at that level.

Even on DWTS the pressure must have been immense. For someone like Woz, just not keeling over dead was probably considered an accomplishment, but the athletes on the show are always expected to really bring it!
 
I have been captivated by her since the moment I saw this particular floor routine at the Olympic trials in 2016. So much talent and charisma, and she always looks like she's having a blast.


This was my favorite of the DWTS performances. She joked in an interview that her mom was more excited about the mirror ball trophy than the gold medal.


So remarkable that she did all of this at the tender age of 16...
 
This was my favorite of the DWTS performances. She joked in an interview that her mom was more excited about the mirror ball trophy than the gold medal.


So remarkable that she did all of this at the tender age of 16...


I spoke with her (and included the clip) about the one with all the playground equipment. It is remarkable that she (and Val for that matter) didn't have a catastrophe during the routine! I was holding my breath through most of it...

 
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Truth be told in DWTS she should not be allowed IMHO. Don't hate me. She took Ballet and dance her whole life and basically the floor routine is a dance with a bunch of tough gymnastics. She really was a professional dancer by the time she went on the show. The same with figure skaters etc
 
Truth be told in DWTS she should not be allowed IMHO. Don't hate me. She took Ballet and dance her whole life and basically the floor routine is a dance with a bunch of tough gymnastics. She really was a professional dancer by the time she went on the show. The same with figure skaters etc

I like having the elite athletes go at it. It is fun to see Woz (my hero) or Master P give it a shot, but I think to sustain an audience for 20+ seasons having people who really know what they are doing makes it great!
 
I like having the elite athletes go at it. It is fun to see Woz (my hero) or Master P give it a shot, but I think to sustain an audience for 20+ seasons having people who really know what they are doing makes it great!
I don’t disagree like when Taylor the Def end in football won. Love baseball football basketball etc players even Rhonda Roudy but if you the woman who won the ice dancing gold medal it’s somewhat her sport or at least similar
 
I don’t disagree like when Taylor the Def end in football won. Love baseball football basketball etc players even Rhonda Roudy but if you the woman who won the ice dancing gold medal it’s somewhat her sport or at least similar
There are certainly overlapping skill sets in some of these sports. Our high school football coach used to say that gymnasts were the best athletes.
 
One of the things I thought was interesting was that she said that many girls still use glasses. I can't imagine training or competing wearing specs, particularly with the number of faceplants that occur in this sport! Ouch.

So I hope at the very least that her acting as spokesperson for DACP will make more kids aware that CLs are a viable option.

Being an old fogie I didn't realize until collecting the interview B-roll cutscenes just how many kids look up to Laurie, so she's probably the perfect person to get the word out.
 
One of the things I thought was interesting was that she said that many girls still use glasses. I can't imagine training or competing wearing specs, particularly with the number of faceplants that occur in this sport! Ouch.

Morgi Hurd is one of the up and coming stars who wears glasses. I agree that it seems like an odd choice.
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Truth be told in DWTS she should not be allowed IMHO. Don't hate me. She took Ballet and dance her whole life and basically the floor routine is a dance with a bunch of tough gymnastics. She really was a professional dancer by the time she went on the show. The same with figure skaters etc

You're right that it's not really a fair competition, but I can see why the producers do it. A lot of the time, it seems the show should be named Dancing with the Has-Beens, so they have to grab someone who is current and popular when they can while also covering the different age group interests.
 
Morgi Hurd is one of the up and coming stars who wears glasses. I agree that it seems like an odd choice.
View attachment 17882

Remarkable -- I wonder how many other elite athletes still compete this way?

I've been watching a lot of spring training games, and I haven't found a single baseball player wearing obvious corrective specs. In fact the only one I can think of is Charlie Sheen in Major League, where they were a plot-point!

 
You're right that it's not really a fair competition, but I can see why the producers do it. A lot of the time, it seems the show should be named Dancing with the Has-Beens, so they have to grab someone who is current and popular when they can while also covering the different age group interests.
In a YouTube interview, she said the chalk dust was too disturbing even if she was wearing soft contact lenses.
 
In a YouTube interview, she said the chalk dust was too disturbing even if she was wearing soft contact lenses.

Interesting -- Laurie said it didn't seem to bother her "you get it in the eyes whether you are wearing CLs or not". Guess everyone has a different tolerance! Still if i'm faceplanting, I don't want anything near my head.
 
Interesting -- Laurie said it didn't seem to bother her "you get it in the eyes whether you are wearing CLs or not". Guess everyone has a different tolerance! Still if i'm faceplanting, I don't want anything near my head.

Adam,
My daughter did gymnastics for a year and she heard many children in the upper grades who wore contacts but only if they never wore glasses while training. If they started with contacts (at age 8-12) ,then there is still a chance they can start contacts. Uneven bars with bars usually begins after the first year (at least with my daughter).

I think it is perception. Guessing from the appearance of her lenses and frames, she must be at least -4 This means that she has adapted to her perception of space and movement. It would be difficult to revert to soft contact lenses.
 
Adam,
My daughter did gymnastics for a year and she heard many children in the upper grades who wore contacts but only if they never wore glasses while training. If they started with contacts (at age 8-12) ,then there is still a chance they can start contacts. Uneven bars with bars usually begins after the first year (at least with my daughter).

I think it is perception. Guessing from the appearance of her lenses and frames, she must be at least -4 This means that she has adapted to her perception of space and movement. It would be difficult to revert to soft contact lenses.

So the "protip" here is to really do a thorough history with your patients, and understand their avocations. Particularly the kiddos, because you could in a real sense alter the course of their lives (and that's even putting aside the self-esteem issues of glasses vs. lenses,etc.)

Paul made the decision to fit me with lenses when I was around 8 or 9 (back in the stone ages), I can only imagine that it has become an order of magnitude easier and cheaper to fit a kid in the interim.