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Laurie Hernandez turns pro ahead of Rio Olympics

Lauren Hernandez warms up on the uneven bars

Lauren Hernandez warms up on the uneven bars during Day 2 of the 2016 U.S. Women's Gymnastics Olympic Trials at SAP Center on July 10, 2016 in San Jose. Photo Credit: Getty Images/ Ezra Shaw

Rising gymnastics star Laurie Hernandez is turning professional ahead of the Summer Olympics.

The 16-year-old from Old Bridge, New Jersey announced Wednesday she is giving up her amateur status just days before helping Team USA vie for a second straight Olympic gold. Hernandez had verbally committed to competing collegiately at Florida before signing with Shade Global Inc.

Hernandez says it was “not an easy decision to make” but it allows her to focus entirely on gymnastics and enjoying the sport she loves.

The U.S. junior champion in 2015, Hernandez put together a strong showing during the U.S. Championships and the Olympic Trials. She finished second to three-time world champion and Olympic teammate Simone Biles at trials while also posting the top score on balance beam.

New York Sports