Morgan Hurd is such an inspiration for young American gymnasts — and anyone who wears eyeglasses and practices sports — that some have dressed up in leotards and her trademark glasses for Halloween.
The costume surprised her because the 2017 all-around world champion and Tokyo 2020 Olympic hopeful still feels like any other 18-year-old.
"Honestly, it feels kind of crazy because I still think of myself as almost no one — I'm just me," Hurd told The Associated Press. "When people ask me for my autograph, I go like, 'wow! Why would they do that?' But I'm glad that I can inspire a generation, and I hope that I can be a good role model for them."
All eyes seemed to be on Hurd at the Pan American Games during her Saturday debut, where her performance contributed to the U.S. team's gold medal, although she failed to advance to the all-around and individual finals in the Peruvian capital.
"It definitely wasn't my best competition, and I'm a bit disappointed at myself, but I'm glad that I can contribute even slightly to team USA, and moving forward, I'm just going to go back to the gym and work even harder."
The U.S. won its fifth-consecutive women's team gold title at the Pan Am Games at an arena packed with local fans waiving red and white Peruvian flags and loudly cheered on the hosts.
"Even though they just came from a national meet in America, it's different when you're in an international meet, especially with a lot of good countries. The crowd was really in favor of Peru, which was exciting. There was a lot of energy," said Thomas Forster, the national performance team coordinator.
"I was a bit surprised that (Morgan) felt some nerves because she has good experience, but all athletes do. So, it was a good opportunity for her to learn how to manage it. It was good overall. I'm glad that they hit all 16 routines. That was the hope."
The members of the U.S. team who advanced to the all-around and individual event finals included: all-around, Riley McCusker and Kara Eaker; vault, Aleah Finnegan; uneven bars, McCusker and Leanne Wong; and balance beam and floor exercise, McCusker and Eaker. The Americans posted a team score of 171.00 in winning Saturday, ahead of Canada, the silver medalist, and Brazil, which won the bronze.
"It feels amazing. We have a very nice and hard working group. To do so well is just great," said McCusker, who led the U.S. team to the victory with a first place in the all-around.
Hurd recently won the parallel bars at the U.S. Classic. She also won the 2017 world championship, while Simone Biles took a long-deserved break, and finished third behind her in 2018. Her only goal now is to win an Olympic medal in Tokyo next year.
"The strength that she has is that she's a good team leader and we know that she's gonna hit," Forster said. "The weaknesses that she has are making sure that all the little things are connected in a routine — but she'll fix those."
Growing up, Hurd faced uncomfortable questions, and in her words, "stuck out like a sore thumb" as one of the few gymnasts to compete with glasses. But she wants to set an example and change that for good.
"There's a lot more now, I will say that, but before, even when I was younger, there was hardly any high-level athlete who wore glasses," she said. "I know there are a lot of parents out there telling their kids, 'you can't do gymnastics or any sport really with your glasses, you need get contacts.' But contacts aren't just for everyone."