March 8, 2007
Courtesy of Matt Sanders, OFF Magazine
Cape Girardeau, Mo. - Some of Southeast Missouri State University's best athletes are probably people you've never heard of. They don't get the play that basketball, football and even baseball get. Instead, they compete with little fanfare, but lots of passion.
We're talking about the women of Southeast gymnastics. In recent years the team has been a perennial contender, recruiting quality gymnasts from throughout the country.
One of those gymnasts is Rikara Turner. Most recently Rikara was a key part of Southeast's win against Texas Women's University, who they'll face again on March 10. The Southeast freshman from Hastings, Minn., took a few moments to talk to Off about life as a gymnast, the lack of love from the fans and her everyday routine.
OFF: So what's your hometown like?
Rikara Turner: It's a small town. It's kind of like Cape, maybe even a little smaller.
OFF: How long have you been doing the gymnastics thing?
RT: Probably since about I was about 8 years old.
OFF: What aspect of gymnastics do you compete in?
RT: I do all around, the vault, bars, beam and floor. It's always fun to compete on the floor, because you get to show your personality. I really enjoy doing the beam, though, even though it's kind of hard mentally, but that's a good thing.
OFF: Why did you choose to come to Southeast?
RT: First off, I really like the coaching staff here. And on my recruiting visit here, I met all the girls, and they were really nice. They seemed like a really together team that supported each other. That's a major thing, is the people.
OFF: So do team members hang out a lot in your free time?
RT: We're together 24/7. We're basically like sisters.
If we get along outside of gym, and we get along in the gym, it's easier to cheer for people, and everyone feels support all the time from their teammates.
OFF: Gymnastics is a sport people aren't as familiar with as basketball and football. Do you think there's a lot that people don't understand about gymnastics as a sport?
RT: Yeah. A lot of people, they think gymnastics is just, oh, you're flipping around. They don't understand how physically and mentally challenging it is and how much time and effort you have to put into it.
Before I came to college I was doing gymnastics training 20 hours a week. And here we do it four hours every day, pretty much. So, basically, get up, go to school, eat lunch, go to practice, go home and do homework. And you do basically the same thing every day. So, it's hard, but it's rewarding at the end.
OFF: Doesn't leave much time for social life does it?
OFF: Do you have time to go out and have some fun on weekends?
RT: We definitely have time to go out and have fun, but we have to keep our main focus on gymnastics.
OFF: Do you have a specialized diet you have to eat?
RT: Definitely don't eat junk food, those things just aren't healthy and won't give you energy. But we don't have a diet that we have to stick to, just make good choices with your eating.
OFF: Southeast has a really good, respected team. Does it ever bother you that other sports get all the attention?
RT: It's definitely frustrating when you have meets and there's not that many fans there. We're doing this to show off SEMO. But we're getting the word around and telling all our friends and they're becoming more interested.
OFF: Do you get a lot of support from young gymnasts?
RT: Yeah. After meets sometimes you'll do signings, and they'll be like, "You're so amazing!"
They look up to us like they want to do what we do. They'll sometimes ask for pointers, but they usually are just so amazed and in awe.
OFF: Do you remember that movie "Stick It"? Was it at all realistic?
RT: I didn't think it was at all. It portrayed gymnastics as a sport where you can mess around and not take it seriously, and that's not how it is at all.
OFF: Earlier you mentioned how some people don't see gymnastics as a real sport. Do movies like this contribute to that feeling?
RT: Yeah. It's hard to try and change the view of people when they put out movies like that. That just makes us try harder.
OFF: Do you even have time for any interests outside school and gymnastics?
RT: I definitely like music. I enjoy listening to it whenever I get a chance. I like reality TV. I like "Grey's Anatomy," and anything on MTV, basically.
OFF: How do you get prepared mentally to compete?
RT: Take a step back and relax and focus on all the practices I've done and repetitions I've done to prepare for the meet. Just focus on all the good that I can do and not think about falling or messing up.
OFF: You said you like music a lot. Is there any certain music you like to get pumped up?
RT: I usually like hip hop or something that pumps me up. Loud.
OFF: Is there a professional future in gymnastics?
RT: I don't see myself doing gymnastics professionally after college. But you can be a coach in an open gym to stay in gymnastics.