The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Monday, April 22, 2024 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Michelle Ikoma brings energy to gymnastics team

If it is at all possible to have gymnastics swag, North Carolina senior gymnast and co-captain Michelle Ikoma has it.

From a confident stare down with her teammates after a sterling vault jump, to mimicking the floor routine of every competing Tar Heel gymnast, Ikoma’s many expressions, yells, and yes, swag, spurred the squad to a dual-meet victory against the Maryland Terrapins.

But Ikoma does not view each meet as a chance to show off but rather another chance to support her teammates.

“It’s such an amazing opportunity to be able to get out there with my team every single time,” she said.

“Especially as a senior, I know that the opportunities I have left are limited, so I want to enjoy every minute that I have.”

The joy was easily seen throughout the meet, as the senior would often be the first to high-five her teammates or the first one to volunteer help moving the many mats and springboards around the gym.

For all-around gymnast Haley Watts, Ikoma and her teammates’ support and reassurance does not go unnoticed.

“It’s the extra push, and it helps you think, ‘Yeah, I’ve really got this,’” the junior said.

Coach Derek Galvinalso pointed to the constant encouragement as a key factor not only in the meet, but also for the team in general.

“That’s one of the trademarks of our team,” Galvin said. “We want them to be enthusiastic, and it comes easily.”

Although Galvin labeled it a team trademark, to him, there is no question who the ringleader is.

“I think everybody on the team would agree that Michelle Ikoma is probably the most energetic, enthusiastic gymnast on the team,” he said.

Amazingly, as Galvin revealed, Ikoma hadn’t practiced all week due to a host of minor injuries. The discomfort continued into warm-ups on Sunday morning, which Ikoma admitted, “Didn’t go quite the way I wanted.”

But with the support of her teammates, she was able to fight through the pain and put together a stellar meet, with strong finishes in both the vault and uneven parallel bars.

“It was great because all my teammates were there to encourage me,” Ikoma said. “They helped me focus in on what I really needed to do, and I knew they believed in me, so it made it that much easier.”

To some, the constant support and well wishing would be repetitive and tiresome, but for Ikoma, it isn’t just being nice to teammates, it’s family.

“It’s absolutely a family,” she said. “Through the last four years I’ve had here, they’ve all been incredible. You have sisters for life.”

And while the relentless yelling may not always guarantee good scores, Galvin offered his own take.

“Enthusiasm,” he maintained. “Makes any task easy.”

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.