OLD BRIDGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Olympic gold-medalist Laurie Hernandez received a hero’s welcome Saturday in her New Jersey hometown.
Thousands lined a parade route cheering the 16-year-old gymnast as she rode in a six-mile motorcade that featured fire trucks, classic cars, police, members of the military and gymnastics groups.
The Old Bridge High School marching band then guided Hernandez into the packed Lombardi Field where she was overwhelmed with love from her hometown.
“The support is absolutely amazing,” she said. “I knew we were having a parade, but I didn’t know it was gonna be like this.”
Gymnast Leah Stewart was in the crowd just hoping to catch a glimpse of her hero.
“I loved when she did like all the back flips and like when she went on the uneven bars,” Stewart told WCBS 880’s Kelly Waldron.
Another young fan named Rosie who does cheer leading at Monmouth Gymnastics and Cheer, where Hernandez trains, said everyone looks up to her.
“I just wanted to say how inspiring it is that someone from Monmouth, someone that we know who lives right here and got so far — it just really inspires people,” she told 1010 WINS’ Samanthan Liebman.
Many in the crowd said her signature smile and poise under pressure is what makes her the perfect role model.
Hernandez is a member of the United States’ gold-medal women’s gymnastics team. She also won an individual silver medal in the balance beam competition.
Other New Jersey communities will be holding celebrations for their hometown Olympians this weekend.
Newark will honor silver medal-winning boxer Shakur Stevenson and Dunellen will pay tribute to hurdler Sydney McLaughlin.