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Olympic Gymnast Laurie Hernandez Established as 'DWTS' Frontrunner With Dominant Premiere Performance

by Tina Smithers Peckham 8:25 PM PDT, September 12, 2016
Playing Olympic Gymnast Laurie Hernandez Established as 'DWTS' Frontrunner With Dominant Premiere Performance

Sometimes the best really is saved for last!

Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez and Dancing With the Stars pro Valentin Chmerkovskiy blew away the competition Monday evening during the season 23 premiere.

The final routine of the night, the pair performed the cha cha to Bonnie McKee's "American Girl" -- a fitting track for the Team USA gold medalist who had no issues bringing her razor-sharp moves from the balance beam to the ballroom.

RELATED: Olympic Gymnast Laurie Hernandez Joins Season 23 of 'Dancing With the Stars'

It was tough to tell who was more enamored with whom -- Hernandez and Chmerkovskiy seemed equally impressed with each other. "I was so excited to see Val," the 16-year-old gold medalist said of the two-time World Dance Champion. "I am just ecstatic to be his partner because he's such a great dancer."

Chmerkovskiy, 30, was right behind her with his own praise: "Having been entrusted with such incredible talent like Laurie, I feel a lot of pressure. I have an American treasure in my hands."

The judges also didn't hold back, awarding a whopping 31 points --  tied for the most of the night with IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe -- to the enthusiastic duo who were all smiles during their performance.

"I am absolutely delighted to see somebody with your talent in this room," said judge Bruno Tonioli. "You have everything at your disposal to being right up there with the best we've ever had."

Judge and two-time DWTS champion Julianne Hough agreed, saying, "You are the total package."

WATCH: Ryan Lochte and Maureen McCormick Join 'DWTS,' Derek and Julianne Hough Return!

See below for more on Hernandez's Dancing With the Stars debut.

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