BOSTON -- Olympic medalist Laurie Hernandez spoke to the media ahead of Friday's USA Gymnastics Championships at the TD Garden and expressed her support for her former national teammates who have publicly come forward in accusing disgraced team doctor Larry Nassar of sexual abuse and her hope that the sport could move forward.
"My heart does go out to the girls that have come forward about the Nassar case," she said before taking questions from reporters. "I stand with them; I think they are incredibly brave for speaking out. I think that it's time for us to start healing and it's really a time for all of us really need to come together."
Hernandez's 2016 Olympic teammate Madison Kocian, as well as 2012 Olympian Kyla Ross, came forward earlier this week to say they had been victims of Nassar. More than 300 women and girls, including fellow former national team members Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Jordyn Wieber and McKayla Maroney, as well as Simone Biles, who is currently on the team, have previously come forward.
"I think communication is key," Hernandez said. "I think it's important for us as athletes to all speak together, and talk about it. We can't ignore the fact that it happened, we can't do that. However, we can look forward for us to heal and come forward as a gymnastics community, and to be hopeful that we can create a safer environment for kids of the future."
Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in prison on child pornography charges in 2017 and was sentenced to a minimum of 80 additional years by two Michigan judges for sexual assault earlier this year. He is currently trying to appeal.
USA Gymnastics has faced intense scrutiny for its handling of the case, and hired Kerry Perry as its new president and CEO in December of last year. Several of Hernandez's peers have criticized Perry in recent months for not reaching out to them in the wake of the scandal. Hernandez appeared nervous when asked about Perry's performance thus far.
"Um, I think right now they're trying their hardest," she said.
Hernandez, who won the silver medal on the balance beam during the 2016 Olympic Games, in addition to helping the U.S. earn gold in the team competition, hasn't competed since Rio, but also addressed her return to the sport.
The 18-year-old New Jersey native, who previously trained at MG Elite, said she is currently looking for a new gym, and has narrowed it down to a few options. She did not specify which ones, but said she was open to moving somewhere else in the country. "I'm looking at a few different places right now," she said.
She insisted her passion for the sport remains, and said she hopes to return to competition next year.