She’s quiet, but her smile will light up a room. Junior Kiana Winston has never had a problem remaining positive throughout her career.
In fact, it’s what makes her a unique gymnast. She remains calm and flashes her signature smile whenever she can.
“When Kiana’s chill, everybody is chill,” said head coach Dana Duckworth. “Her attitude gives [her teammates] confidence. If she looks scared and fearful while going, it would affect everybody.”
Positivity comes easily to Winston, but being outspoken is something she’s had to learn. Even with nearly 17 years of gymnastics experience behind her, Winston still says this is her biggest challenge. Her arrival at Alabama marked an interesting change in her life. She was in a new environment with new teammates.
As a freshman, she had trouble speaking out. Now, she wants to become more vocal.
“I’m a junior now. I can’t be little Kiana in a little hut,” she said. “I have to just show it’s time for the real world.”
While Winston’s voice may be quiet, her performances are louder than ever.
She is Alabama’s main all-around threat, and usually competes in all four events every meet. She ranks fifth in the country in all-around, sixth on beam and third on floor. She even achieved a perfect 10 on the floor exercise against Florida.
Perfection is hard to achieve, but Winston chases it every day in the gym.
“She works hard in the gym,” said freshman Wynter Childers. “She’s a perfectionist in the gym. Seeing Kiana mess up, everyone’s like ‘What the heck? Why?’ It never happens. She’s definitely someone you watch work so hard in the gym.”
Each big performance has helped her gain what she lacked: confidence. Before every routine, she takes a deep breath, letting go of her fears. Her calm presence allows her to flow through each move on each event. Every time she performs, she wants to show people what she can accomplish.
“It does help me to be able to just let go of all doubts and worries just for a second and just show the world what I have to offer,” Winston said. “It really releases some stress in me.”
Junior Nickie Guerrero, who is very close to Winston, takes pride in her role as a vocal leader. As someone with a lot of passion, she can get caught up in the stakes of a meet. Winston has helped her calm down and grasp how fun the sport can be.
“She’s definitely helped me realize that you can’t take this too seriously,” Guerrero said. “She does her absolute best when she’s having fun.”
Before she was posting big scores, Winston had her fair share of challenges. A high-stress environment during her elite career put a lot of wear and tear on her body. Winston had a hard time realizing just how fragile her health could be.
Duckworth said Winston is still battling injuries every day.
“She’s overcoming a lot of things physically,” Duckworth said. “If I gave you the list, people would be scared.”
As the injuries came and went, Duckworth showed her how preserve her body and adjust to the collegiate style of training.
“We have to be smart that physically, there’s only so many numbers we can do,” Duckworth said. “We have to make it more about quality instead of quantity.”
Winston and Alabama will face Boise State on Friday for the team’s second home meet in a row. Winston continues to be one of Alabama’s main threats, and Duckworth believes the sky’s the limit.
“If she can find it, that complete utter confidence, whoa baby, it’s going to be fun to watch,” Duckworth said.
Source:: The Crimson White Sports