In his own words, Nico Hernandez is "the person with the will to win," and end Team USA's gold medal drought in men's boxing.
"We're a young and hungry team, I think we're one of the youngest teams," he said in an interview with NBC Olympics, alongside teammates Shakur Stevenson and Charles Conwell.
At 20, Hernandez is making his first appearance at the Olympics in the light flyweight division. Although he pointed out that the United States athletes are among the youngest competitors, he has been training since he was 9 and a resident of Wichita, Kansas.
Hernandez was trained by his father, Lewis, who joins him in Rio as his coach. "He's been pushing me since I was little and helping me chase my dreams," Hernandez said of his father.
But his path to the XXXI Olympiad began in earnest with his victory at the 2011 and 2012 Junior Olympics. “When I won the National Junior Olympics, when I was standing on top of the podium getting the gold medal around my neck, it made me think of the big Olympics,” Hernandez recounted.
Hernandez will not be alone in his journey to Rio, or in training. According to Hernandez, his teammates are like “family who are always there for each other.”
It helps for the days of training and conditioning needed of the boxers. “A typical training session for us is basically waking up in the morning, doing strength and condition for about two hours, and later on in the day, going to our boxing workout, working on our boxing skills,” Hernandez said.
These hours of training could help give Hernandez an edge in competition with the changed rules. Despite the recent decision to forgo protective headgear for men’s boxing, Hernandez welcomes the challenge. “I actually like it. Like your peripheral vision, you can see more. You don't get as hot,” Hernandez said.
Noting the possible downside of the rule change, he added “The only thing you gotta watch out for is cuts from head-butts and stuff. I really like it though.”
Additional Reporting by Shawn Smith