Opsahl’s sister act fulfills dream for both gymnasts

Sam Campanaro

Alicia Opsahl stood bent over with her hands on her knees while watching her younger sister Maria perform on floor Saturday night when the Gophers gymnasts faced Iowa State. Maria assumed the same position and isolated herself from her teammates when it was her older sister’s turn to compete in the same event.

Each admitted their nerves were running high while the other was performing. When Alicia’s floor exercise tied the team record with a score of 9.95, the nerves turned into hugs and cheers.

Things have finally gotten back to normal for Alicia and Maria. They are on the same team again, after competing apart for two years. The Opsahl pair is now whole once more.

“It wouldn’t feel right to have Maria someplace else,” Alicia said.

The Opsahl sisters have become accustomed to each other’s presence in the gym just as they are used to leotards and chalk.

The two started at 3 and 5 years old and went on to compete for the Twin City Twisters at the club level and for Forest Lake High School.

They were each other’s support through tough days and the sacrifices they made together. The sisters helped each other develop into mature gymnasts.

“Lot’s of times her corrections were better than the coaches’,” Maria said.

“Because I knew how her body worked,” Alicia said.

It was a dream of the sisters, since they were little girls attending Minnesota meets, to become Gopher gymnasts. The first part came true when Alicia was offered a scholarship in 2000.

Maria said it was hard to see her sister move on without her. She couldn’t wait to be on the same team with her sister again.

When it came time for Maria to start looking at collegiate programs in 2002, Alicia and her family were keeping their fingers crossed for a scholarship to Minnesota with Maria’s name on it.

“We’ve done it together for as long as we could remember it kind of became both of our dreams because it wasn’t complete without the other person,” Alicia said.

Alicia, a junior, has competed on bars, beam and floor all three of her years at Minnesota.

Maria, a freshman, has gotten the chance to perform on floor exercise and beam due to injuries to teammates Annie Laatsch and Carrie Hortsch. It’s an opportunity she is happy to take advantage of but she realizes it isn’t one that happened under the most ideal conditions.

Together again, the two share the dynamic of sisters, teammates and friends.

The blond, curly-haired women don’t just share gymnastics and a last name. They are capable of finishing each others’ sentences and sharing the emotional aspects that go into competition.

“They’re so motivated individually,” co-head coach Jim Stephenson said. “It’s hard to say (if they’re better together.)”

As sisters, the two listen each to each other and aren’t afraid to fight or to be direct with one another.

Maria, the “free spirit” of the two, is driven by her passion for the sport. She says it’s hard for her to sit out because of an injury or any other reason.

Alicia is the more “analytical worrier.” She likes the competitiveness of collegiate gymnastics.

Things are finally the way the Opsahls want them to be – living out their dreams together. From little girls making up routines for their family in the living room to young women competing as Gophers in the Sports Pavilion, the two know they couldn’t have done it without each other.

Sam Campanaro welcomes comments at [email protected]