U’s Knaeble shows perfect capability in floor exercise

Susan Filkins

No women’s gymnast in Minnesota history has come close to reaching the status former Gopher Marie Roethlisberger established seven years ago. Maybe no one will. But junior Mindy Knaeble is definitely in the same league.
Although their career statistics don’t match up, Knaeble did tie Roethlisberger’s school record in the all-around last year, placing her among the top-ranked women gymnasts in Gophers history.
“The two best gymnasts to ever attend the University of Minnesota are Marie Roethlisberger and Mindy Knaeble,” Gophers women’s gymnastics coach Jim Stephenson said.
Roethlisberger, daughter of Gophers men’s gymnastics coach Fred Roethlisberger, is the only Gophers gymnast to have won a national championship on any event. But Knaeble is not far from becoming the second.
Last year Knaeble, a native of New Hope, Minn., won the Big Ten championship on floor exercise. She was the first gymnast in five years to bring a conference title to Minnesota. Three weeks ago, Knaeble broke the school record on the event, scoring a 9.925. Her score is also a school record on any of the four apparatus.
Despite her own accomplishments, Knaeble doesn’t see the comparison to Roethlisberger.
“When I was little, I used to look up to her,” Knaeble said. “She was one of the great legends of gymnastics. I feel really weird when people compare me to her.”
Knaeble excels on all events in the gym, not just floor exercise. She holds the second-highest balance beam score in school history and the third-highest vault score. But, it is the floor exercise where she is at her best.
This summer, Knaeble learned a new floor routine that was accompanied by music from the movie, “The Rock.” Even though she said the routine takes more endurance and is faster, it is not much different from her old routine.
“It is kind of like any other floor routine, but usually you don’t start scoring high on a floor routine until the second year that you have had it,” Knaeble said. “So, I am kind of shocked that it is scoring so high already.”
This year, it appears a perfect 10 is attainable.
“I feel like I have been really close a couple of times,” Knaeble said. “One time I couldn’t really figure out what they deducted on, so I hope that it will eventually happen. It is one of my goals.”
A 10 is never easy. In fact, no Gophers gymnast has ever done it. But Stephenson believes someone will break the drought this year. And, he said, Knaeble is the one to do it.
“She doesn’t talk about that kind of thing much,” Stephenson said. “But I know for a fact that she enters every practice and every competition with that in mind. She is one of those people on our team that is capable of scoring a perfect 10.”
Knaeble has the nation’s second-best floor routine score with an average of 9.897. As a team, the Gophers rank No. 2 in that event.
Each time Knaeble takes the floor, she expects the best.
“You are really relaxed in practice, so you try to picture the audience not being there,” Knaeble said. “But there is a bit of adrenaline, and you tell yourself you are the best and that you can do it.”
Still, Knaeble downplays herself. For her, the team comes first. One of her main goals is to get the Gophers to NCAA’s.
“If we get to regionals, and we have a good meet there, I am sure we will be (at NCAA’s),” Knaeble said.