Who Is Hezly Rivera? Meet the Newest (and Youngest!) Gymnast Joining Team USA for the 2024 Olympics (2024)

At just 16 years old, Hezly Rivera has achieved a dream that many gymnasts spend their entire lives chasing: She's going to the 2024 Olympics!

When Rivera’s name was announced as part of the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team in June 2024, she was overwhelmed with gratitude. During a press conference following the U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials in Minneapolis on June 30, 2024, Rivera reflected on her journey, acknowledging the “sacrifices made” and the support system that has stood by her side every step of the way.

“I'm so grateful to be here and to be called to the Olympic team,” Rivera told reporters. “It's just all been such an amazing journey. I can't believe I'm finally here.”

Rivera joins four veteran Olympians on the 2024 squad: Simone Biles, Jade Carey, Suni Lee and Jordan Chiles. “I can’t believe that I’m part of this team as well,” she told The Washington Post on June 30.

From her unexpected start in gymnastics to her excitement to be part of Team USA, here is everything to know about gymnast Hezly Rivera.

She’s from New Jersey

Who Is Hezly Rivera? Meet the Newest (and Youngest!) Gymnast Joining Team USA for the 2024 Olympics (1)

Rivera was born to parents Henry Rivera and Heidy Ruiz in Hackensack, N.J. on June 4, 2008. She was raised in Oradell, N.J. and has two siblings, Hanly and Carhelis. She currently resides in Plano, Texas, where she trains at WOGA Gymnastics.

Her gymnastic talent was discovered at a birthday party

Rivera's journey into gymnastics began ar an unexpected place: a birthday party. At just 5 years old, Rivera was at a party at a gym when her talent was noticed by a coach, who suggested to her parents that they enroll her in gymnastics classes, per Olympics.com.

By the age of 10, Rivera was already infatuated with the Olympics, rewatching the 2008 and 2012 games over and over again.

She has a close relationship with her father

Who Is Hezly Rivera? Meet the Newest (and Youngest!) Gymnast Joining Team USA for the 2024 Olympics (2)

Rivera’s strong bond with her father, Henry, who has supported her from the beginning, has played a crucial role in her journey to the Olympic stage.

“He is my hero, my rock,” Rivera told reporters after the 2024 U.S. Olympic trials. “He always pushes me to be my best, but he's also comforting when things get rough.” Rivera added that their close relationship has a strong foundation of trust, noting how she’s able to confide in him about anything.

“He's always there to talk about anything,” she said. “He's like, ‘You can talk to me about anything,’ and I will.”

Her original goal was to make the 2028 Olympics — not 2024

Rivera had originally set her sights on making the 2028 U.S. Olympic Gymnastics team, viewing the Olympic Trials in June 2024 as a “stepping stone” to get her there. However, when asked what changed, Rivera was straightforward about her former goal.

“I think that was before this meet happened,” Rivera said of the Olympic Trials on June 30. “I think this was a stepping stone for me to just get out here and do my job. So yeah, 2028 was the goal. I was just trying to stay very focused, because it's all a part of the journey either way, if I [made] it or not.”

She views challenges as learning opportunities

At the 2023 Junior World Artistic Gymnastics Championships — the biggest meet of her career at the time — Rivera experienced a slip of her hand on the vault. Instead of getting discouraged by the incident, she viewed it as a learning opportunity, emphasizing the importance of focusing on the present and not dwelling on past mistakes.

“I definitely can take everything, everything that I did and learn from it,” Rivera told reporter Scott Bregman at WOGA Gymnastics in Plano, Texas in April 2023. “Even the mess-ups, I’m so grateful for those because it makes me a better gymnast. Every time I fall, I’m like, ‘Okay, don’t do what you did last time. Just focus on everything that you’re doing.’ ”

She has passed significant milestones in her young career

Who Is Hezly Rivera? Meet the Newest (and Youngest!) Gymnast Joining Team USA for the 2024 Olympics (4)

Rivera’s rise in the gymnastics world has been marked by consistent and impressive achievements on the beam. From clinching the 2023 Winter Cup junior women’s all-around title to leaving the 2023 Junior World Championships with two silver medals, she has demonstrated her talent and poise under pressure.

“I just wanted to take everything one step at a time and do what I do in the gym, because I know I can hit my routines,” Rivera told Gymnastics Now after the 2023 Winter Cup on Feb. 26, 2023. “So I just wanted to try and stay calm and do one skill at a time and it worked out.”

She’s the youngest athlete on Team USA

At 16 years old, Rivera is officially the youngest athlete of all sports divisions for Team USA headed to the Paris Olympics, per NBC Dallas.

Before being selected for the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team on June 30, 2024, Rivera was in seventh place after day one of the competition, with an overall score of 54.825. On day two, Rivera finished with a score of 56.325, putting her in fifth place with an all-around score of 111.150 — beating out the final competitors vying for the coveted fifth spot.

Despite giving a stellar performance at the trials, Rivera went into the weekend with a calm, collected and “nothing-to-lose” mindset.

“I [was thinking] I’m like the underdog, and there wasn’t so much pressure on me, which was probably a good thing,” Rivera told NBC. “I just went out there and did my thing.”

Simone Biles says she’s “excited” to show Rivera “the ropes”

Who Is Hezly Rivera? Meet the Newest (and Youngest!) Gymnast Joining Team USA for the 2024 Olympics (5)

Rivera is joining four accomplished Olympic gymnasts — Biles, Carey, Lee and Chiles — as part of the 2024 U.S. Olympic team, and her teammates are enthusiastic about the young athlete’s onboarding.

“She’s so cute. She’s so smart. She’s beautiful,” Biles told The Washington Post. “We’re really proud of her for making this team, and we’re really excited to kind of show her the ropes. At least she doesn’t have to do it alone. She has four veterans that have been there before.”

She has interests aside from gymnastics

Despite Rivera’s impressive career as an athlete at the age of 16, she still maintains interests akin to her peers. Beyond gymnastics, Rivera’s favorite subject is math and loves shopping and listening to music by Katy Nichole, per her U.S. Gymnastics profile. Her favorite book is Mamba Mentality and her favorite movie is Spy Kids 2.

Who Is Hezly Rivera? Meet the Newest (and Youngest!) Gymnast Joining Team USA for the 2024 Olympics (2024)
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