There are approximately 100 African American and other student-athletes of color this school year at the University of Minnesota. In an occasional series throughout the 2015-16 school and sports year, the MSR will highlight many of these players.
This week: Gopher sophomore gymnast Ciara Gardner
A gymnast’s goal of a perfect “10” score is omnipresent.
After the 2016 season opener last month, Minnesota sophomore Ciara Gardner told the MSR that she was less than pleased with her overall performance. This despite earning nines and finishing second in all-around, which to a first-time observer looked almost flawless. According to the Gopher from Frisco, Texas, however, apparently looks were deceiving.
“It definitely was not what I wanted it to be,” admitted Gardner. “I definitely had some hiccups.”
She has finished second in subsequent meets versus Michigan State and Ohio State. Last season, Gardner had a season-high 9.900 on her floor exercise in a tri-meet versus New Hampshire and Iowa.
The soon-to-be 20-year-old — Gardner’s birthday is February 21 — hails from a competitive family. Her only brother played college basketball, and three cousins played football, basketball and volleyball.
“I think my brother is the most competitive when he played basketball,” recalls Gardner. “You would definitely see how competitive when he was on the court.”
What about her? “I held all of it in,” she responded. “I’m not going to let everyone else see it. I’m getting better with that, though.”
Gardner is the team’s only Black gymnast, something she has become accustomed to over the years, including during her time spent at the World Olympic Gymnastics Academy in Texas, where she was a 12-year veteran. There she placed in the top seven in the region and thrice qualified for the Junior Olympics National in consecutive years.
“It was just me,” said Gardner. “I’ve been used to that my whole life.” The Academy “was considered the best gym. I had coaches from other countries to come there. They were the ones who pushed me very hard to be where I am now.”
Her major at Minnesota currently is communications with a sociology minor. “I actually changed my major six times,” admits Gardner. “I went from nursing to wedding planner, but you don’t need to go to college [for that]. Then [as a] real estate agent, but you don’t have to go to college for that, either.
“My brother actually helped me settle” on her present major, said Gardner. “I like people, and I like talking with people and being around people. He thought communications would be the best for me, and sociology would help me relate and understand why people do what they do.”
Asked if she envisions coaching in her future as well, Gardner replied, “Maybe on weekends. I don’t think I could do it full time. I don’t have the patience for that.”
The Minnesota Lynx last week re-signed center Sylvia Fowles and guard Renee Montgomery, and traded forward Devereaux Peters to Indiana for forward Natasha Howard in a sign-and-trade deal.
Minnesota and Phoenix will kick off the league’s 20th regular season Saturday, May 14 as part of WNBA Tip-Off 2016 — 12 games over nine days (May 14-22), which is expected to feature all 12 teams’ home openers on television. ESPN’s W schedule plans to show up to 33 games, including “wall-to-wall” playoffs coverage, and NBA TV says they will televise more than 40 regular-season games.
However, both channels’ W coverage, all things gender equity speaking, leaves a lot to be desired. NBA TV seems to prefer meaningless NBA summer league games to meaningful live WNBA contests. And ESPN’s stepmother treatment of America’s longest running women’s pro league has been oft-criticized on our sports pages, so showing 33 games when it could easily dedicate one of its umpteen channels to doing more earns no enthusiastic applause from us.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.