Gymnasts support international teammate

Allison Mueller

Haruko “Sunny” Hasebe, a first-year international student, competed in her home country of Japan, and is making the adjustment to competing on the gymnastics team at Winona State. (Photo by Nicole Girgen)
Haruko “Sunny” Hasebe, a first-year international student, competed in her home country of Japan, and is making the adjustment to competing on the gymnastics team at Winona State. (Photo by Nicole Girgen)

Emma Cavanaugh / Winonan

There is something besides academics that is keeping first-year international student Haruko “Sunny” Hasebe in Winona.

A visit to head gymnastics coach Beckie Rolbiecki’s office changed everything for her.

“I knocked on Beckie’s door and was like, ‘Hi, can I do gymnastics here?’ and she was like, ‘Sure. Let’s do it,’” Hasebe said.

Hasebe is one of 12 first-years on Winona State’s gymnastic team. Before coming to Winona State to study mass communications, she competed as an elite gymnast in Japan. According to Hasebe, there is a vast difference between competing in Japan and competing at Winona State.

“It’s really different; I’ve never competed as a team. I’ve always competed individually, so everyone is a rival. Nobody really liked each other,” Hasebe said. “Everyone is going to support you, it’s amazing.”

Hasebe said she received support from her parents in Tokyo while growing up. Now, her support comes from Rolbiecki, her teammates and best friend from Malaysia who is not on the gymnastics team.

According to Hasebe, being a member of a team is one of the best parts about competing for Winona State. The gymnasts and coaches have emphasized this season that the Warrior gymnasts compete as a team. Hasebe mentioned the competitive atmosphere in Japanese gymnastics and how the mentality there is “if she falls I might win,” or “if I fall she will be better.”

She said, “That never happens here and I love it.”

The Warriors have won three of their five meets so far this season. Their most reason victory came Friday, Feb. 3 against the University of Wisconsin-Stout with a score of 187.650. Hasebe was one of three first-place finishes for Winona State as she posted a 9.625 on the balance beam. She also held one of the top three finishes for the bars.

“It’s been great; we’ve been doing really good, Hasebe said. “We’re becoming a team.”

This is Hasebe’s first year back competing after a one-year hiatus she took to focus on her studies. This season she has been competing on bar and beam, but she hopes to improve her vault and floor routine to the point where she can compete.

Hasebe plans to compete for the team during all four years of college. She said after graduation she would like to work for an advertising agency.

“I can speak English and Japanese, so I can do something that is bilingual. Hopefully I won’t lose my Japanese.” Hasebe said.

The Warriors will next compete at the Harley Invite in Milwaukee, Wisc. on Friday, Feb. 10.

By Emma Cavanaugh