Latina athletes have undoubtedly made their mark on the sports world, from surfer Maya Gabeira to softball player Lisa Fernandez to gymnast Laurie Hernandez. Last week, 19-year-old Panamanian gymnast Hillary Heron made history at the 2023 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships when she performed the Biles I, one of the most difficult vaults named after world-famous gymnast Simon Biles, during her floor exercise. Heron is now the first non-U.S. athlete to land the double layout with a half twist and the first gymnast in history other than Biles to perform it in a FIG international competition.
“Well, like I grew up watching her, so it’s like mind-blowing and I’m just so honored to be able to do this. Like, I remember seeing her when she created the skill and I was like, oh my God, how is that possible?” she said in an interview with Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG). “When my coach told me, like, okay, we’re gonna try the Biles, I was like what’s he thinking? But like, I actually tried and it went well and it’s actually a very fun skill to try and I’m very honored to be able to do it.”
Born in Panama, Heron has been competing in international gymnastics since 2017, earning many gold, silver, and bronze medals throughout her competitive career. This year, she made history by performing Biles’s signature move called the Biles, which involves a roundoff, back handspring with half-turn entry, and a somersault with two twists. Only five other gymnasts overall have attempted and completed the move and she’s became the only woman after Simone to perform Biles I. Biles was in the same competition so it may have been nerve-wracking for Heron to perform the move in front of her but she did it and pulled it off successfully. The move was first seen in Biles’s performance in 2018 at the World Championships in Qatar and it was quickly named after her and helping to solidify her status as the world’ greatest gymnast . By the end of this year’s competition, Heron landed in 11th place with a score of 12.916.
Just as Simone Biles is inspiring other young gymnasts throughout the world, Heron has now made a place for herself in history too, representing her native country of Panama and encouraging other aspiring Latina gymnasts to pursue their dreams. It’s important for us to have representation not just in media but in sports too, to push boundaries, make history whenever we can, and inspire others to do the same.
”That four-year-old girl who watched the 2008 Olympic games in the living room with her family, can’t believe that her biggest dream is going to become a reality. We made it🇵🇦 #paris2024,” Heron shared on Instagram about the team heading to the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.