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Star GymHawk Stevenson prepares for senior season

BY MATT CABEL | DECEMBER 14, 2012 6:30 AM

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For Emma Stevenson, confidence is key.

Entering her final season as a member of the Iowa women’s gymnastics team, Stevenson cites her mentality as one of the key differences between the gymnast she is now and the one who joined the GymHawks in 2010. This confidence has come about thanks to numerous competitions and the support of her teammates.

“Confidence-wise and mentally, I’ve always had the skills,” she said. “But I think my ability to know that I can do them consistently and that I can be counted on in competition, and that they’ll be clean and that it’s going to be done well has come to be more important and obvious here.”

Head coach Larissa Libby cited Stevenson’s work ethic, mental strength, and determination as key points that make up her confidence. Libby referred to Stevenson as her team’s stabilizer, noting Emma’s “quiet, cool confidence” as a key to the team’s success.

“If she goes out there and falls, she will be shocked. It’s not who she is, it’s not how she trains, it’s not what she expects of herself or the level she holds herself to,” Libby said. “Each year, she’s gotten a little bit better. Last year, she was our most consistent competitor as far as scores and expectation from an individual.”

Stevenson began gymnastics at the age of 6. Her strength and large potential led one of her early coaches to switch her to team gymnastics. The move worked out for the best, she thinks, and it played a large part in her journey to become a GymHawk, where she believes she has hit her peak as a gymnast.

“When I was little, I had two teammates who rose the levels [of gymnastics classes] with me,” Stevenson said. “But it was funny; my coach only ever moved me up because he felt bad for me because he didn’t want me to be away from my friends.”

Stevenson is entering her final season healthy for the first time in her Hawkeye career. She had surgeries in the summer before each of her first three seasons: toe-ligament surgery her freshmen year, surgery on both of her ankles her sophomore year, and a risky surgery on a joint in her toe before her junior season that resulted in a six-month span without training.

Despite the surgeries, her performances have only improved. After the toe-joint surgery, she posted career high scores in vaults, bars and floor, which culminated in being named to the Big Ten All-Championship team for 9.875 floor performance at the Big Ten kmeet.

“That was a brand-new award [last year], so I didn’t even know that existed,” Stevenson said. “When I got called, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ It was awesome to be able to represent Iowa that way. It’s funny — floor, coming into Iowa, was not the event I’d ever think I’d place in.”

With the first meet of the season on Jan. 11, 2013, she believes confidence and consistency are key for the team. As a senior, she stressed the importance of doing what she says and leading by example, a challenge that has made her a better gymnast.

“She is the most consistent gymnast that we have,” sophomore Sydney Hoerr said. “Coming in here as a freshman, I always looked up to her. She was always so strong in the gym every day, positive attitude, cheering on the team, getting us ready, and she was the same way in competition. She was the one driving us to do better, and she’s inspiring because of that.”

Even with her success, Stevenson believes she’s on equal footing with the rest of her teammates and keeps a team-first mentality in a very individualized sport. Stevenson, along with sophomore Emma Willis, were named to the Big Ten Gymnasts to Watch List, which was released Wednesday.

“I always knew that I was a good athlete, but I never thought I’d be the athlete where people know their name,” Stevenson said. “Now people know who I am more. It’s cool, it’s a really good feeling, and I really hope that I can live up to that name and really do better things this year.”


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