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Stevenson emphasizes team for the GymHawks

BY MOLLY IRENE OLMSTEAD | JANUARY 26, 2011 7:10 AM

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Emma Stevenson isn’t an all-arounder, nor does she frequently score in the top three of her events, but the Iowa women’s gymnastics team would be less consistent and far more frenzied without her.

Stevenson competes in uneven bars and floor exercise, and her consistency in these events is her strength. At the first three meets of this season, she has scored 9.775 on bars each time.

“When [Emma] competes, and I watch her compete, there are no worries at all,” assistant coach Linas Gaveika said. “I can just sit back and think ‘OK, we’ve got this one.’ ”

Her ability to remain calm and confident — an emotional consistency that is present even in stressful competition — is also crucial to the GymHawks’ team dynamic. The rest of GymHawks look to Stevenson to remain constant with her scores as well as her emotions.

Although she is only a sophomore, she plays a crucial role as a leader for her teammates because she keeps everyone else’s emotions in check, too.

“I like to do well so I can help other people do well and focus and get into the right mindset,” she said. “Every routine counts, so as much as I can be consistent and helpful to my teammates, it’s easier for them to relax and focus more on themselves.”

At the home-opener against Michigan on Jan. 22, the GymHawks were challenged when sophomore Kaitlyn Urano suffered a concussion during warm-ups. Alternates had to suddenly fill Urano’s spots on beam and floor.

While the injury was stressful, it didn’t faze the GymHawks. The gymnasts’ ability to meet the challenge with a sense of confidence can be attributed to Stevenson’s role as a leader.

“When someone falls, everyone kind of goes scatterbrained, but [Emma] just pulls us all back together,” sophomore Maya Wickus said. “She’s always willing to step up for someone else and help her relax again. The whole team is ready to go because Emma is so confident — not just in herself, but in everyone else, too.”

Stevenson’s confidence stems from her work ethic. In practice, she maintains a constant positive “I can do it” attitude and is continually ready and willing to work hard.

She is the tallest gymnast on the team — about 5-8 — and as a result, she has extra challenges during her workouts. With a taller body, she has more muscle mass to manipulate on the apparatuses. Her body hurts more because there’s more of it, she said, but she doesn’t let it stop her.

“I just want to always work hard, even if it hurts, because I want my team to do well,” she said. “I want to work hard in practice so I can earn the respect of my teammates. When we all work hard, we all fit together better.”

While gymnastics is often regarded as an individual sport because the athletes compete separately, Stevenson emphasizes the importance of having strong teamwork and trust between the athletes.

“There’s 24 routines to be hit, and we’ve got to do one at a time,” Gaveika said. “Everyone has to take care of her part on her own, but once everyone takes care of her part, it becomes like a puzzle with the pieces fitting together. It becomes a team.”

For Stevenson, ensuring her own success is just as important as supporting her teammates. She is always ready to step up, whether it’s in an event or helping a teammate focus and be confident. She contributes her piece of the puzzle every day, in practice and in meets.

“It’s all about the team for me,” she said.


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