It was an emotional week for Laurie Hernandez.
A few days after discovering that his grandmother Brunilda Hernandez – who had fought against Alzheimer’s – was dead, the Olympian had to go out and perform two live dances on the dance with the stars on Monday.
“It was a tough week,” said Hernandez, 16, at the bastides of People after the show.
Hernandez’s grandmother died Wednesday night, but the news was kept from the young gymnast until Friday.
“I just want to protect her and guide her, but I will not shelter her from a situation that is her own,” said her dancer partner Valentin Chmerkovskiy, who had been told that Wednesday night and helped decide to say Finally Him the new.
“It’s up to her and her to grow and understand too. She needs to take time and understand.”
“But the reality is that her grandmother was so proud of her and as a person at this age I think the more peace you get is to see what you leave behind and the legacy you leave Behind and seeing your granddaughter represent her country and her family and herself with so much dignity and pride and strength is an absolutely incredible feeling for her grandmother, “continued the dancer, referring to the recent Gold medal Hernandez victory at the 1984 Olympic Games in Rio.
Chmerkovskiy said he is sure that Hernandez’s grandmother is “in a better place and look down and just as proud.”
“The lesson is to cherish every moment,” he added. “Do not take things for granted and remember that it’s always about people.
These are not gold medals, trophies, or money. These are people you cherish and can share incredible moments with. ”
And while Hernandez was visibly emotional behind the scenes during the video package that played before her first dance on Monday, she says she is grateful that she was able to rely on her partner for emotional support.
“I really cried a bit, but without him I probably would not have danced as well as I did today – or even dance at all,” says Hernandez, Who scored a perfect 30 of the judges for their foxtrot.
By the time she returned for her trio dance with Chmerkovskiy and her brother Maksim, the pro seemed to be in better spirits.
“When you have family with you, it gives you extra energy. It was as if I had two brothers this week, “she told reporters to repeat – and receive a second perfect note – with the Chmerkovski for their samba.
“Sometimes you do not know what to say, so instead of saying something, I danced it.
Hernandez was announced as finalist on the reality dance contest and will compete for the Mirrorball Trophy next Monday and Tuesday on ABC.