On the Monday night debut of the 23rd season of Dancing With the Stars, Ryan Lochte protestors forced the show to abruptly break to commercial. And they threatened to throw 16-year-old Laurie Hernandez off her A-game. Just after Lochte and his partner, Cheryl Burke, did the foxtrot, two men walked in front of the camera to protest the Olympic swimmer, according to People. But seasoned gymnast Laurie didn’t let the pressure get to her, due in part to her sport.
“In gymnastics, there have been times that a girl has gone out right before me and gets injured and has to be taken out on a stretcher,” she said. “I just have to block that out of my mind and focus on what I have to do, so that’s what I did tonight.”
While Lochte dominated headlines, some failed to notice that Laurie – who tied for first place – showed why she’s the frontrunner of the competition. Dancing to Bonnie McKee’s “American Girl” with Val Chmerkovskiy, Laurie once again proved that she doesn’t crumble under pressure. She also got to show off her dancing skills, though anyone who followed her Olympic run knows that she can dance. Slate once called her the “savior of gymnastics dance” because of her ability to bring life to an often stiff event.
Unlike gymnastics, DWTS also lets us hear a little bit of Laurie’s competitive streak. After meeting Val, she almost immediately said, “So we’re going to like win this thing, right?” She seems genuinely excited about the whole process, but there’s probably no one more eager to win the mirrorball than Laurie. Check out her performance above and her excitedly talking about the show below: