Only one day after Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez gave an emotional interview about her grandmother on “Dancing with the Stars,” Brunilda Hernandez, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, died.
The graceful 16-year-old wiped away tears after her routine, even crying into her partner Val Chmerkovskiy’s chest.
I kind of feel bad because I’ve been away from home for so long,” Hernandez said in a pre-taped "DWTS" interview. “So I haven’t really been able to see her as much as I used to. And she’s not really doing so well, but I think I’m going to see her soon.”
"Growing up, she would always do my hair – she was always the one who would make me chocolate milk or rice when I came home,” she said.
Hernandez visited her grandmother at the Old Bridge, New Jersey, assisted living center 10 weeks ago, as she was preparing for the popular dance show.
A frontrunner to win this season, Hernandez received perfect scores for her performance with Chmerkovskiy – 30 out of 30 points.
Following their routine, host Tom Bergeron was teary-eyed as he asked the judges for their feedback
Judge Carrie Ann Inaba praised Laurie for “using all that emotion and channeling it for something beautiful for all of us to watch,” and telling the gymnast that she represented “the American dream, and the ‘Dancing With the Stars’ dream.”
Another judge, Julianne Hough, said Hernandez “exceeded” everyone’s expectations. “I'm choosing to smile right now, with tears of joy and happiness, because I know that that's exactly what your grandmother is doing right now.”
Bruno Tonioli said it appeared as if the gymnast was “flying, guided by an angel.”
After the judges finished, Bergeron gave the teen a hug and said her performance was “the most amazing display of courage that I’ve seen in 23 seasons.”
For the couple’s second dance of the night, Hernandez teamed up with Chmerkovsky and his brother Maksim for a samba that Inaba said was her “best dance ever” – it received another perfect score.