IOWA Magazine | 01-09-2023

Hawkeye Gymnast Adeline Kenlin Finds Balance in Quest for NCAA Title

3 minute read
The junior discovers a renewed passion for the sport at Iowa after dealing with burnout at the elite level.
Adeline Kenlin PHOTO: BRIAN RAY/HAWKEYESPORTS.COM Adeline Kenlin competes on the balance beam during a meet last season against Texas Woman's University at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Once feeling like she’d lost her balance in life, Adeline Kenlin stuck the landing last spring on college gymnastics’ biggest stage. The Iowa City native flashed a huge smile and pumped her fist after a runner-up performance behind Olympic gold medalist Suni Lee in the balance beam at the NCAA championships in Fort Worth, Texas. Kenlin’s celebration reflected her renewed love for the sport after struggling with the demands of elite gymnastics in high school. This spring, the UI junior is again vying for an NCAA championship.

Iowa Magazine talked to Kenlin about the pressure of competitive sports, rediscovering joy in gymnastics, and her dreams beyond graduation.

You competed in elite gymnastics for several years. What were the main challenges of competing at that level?

It was very hard mentally and physically, and I couldn’t keep up with them both at the same time. During the end of my elite career, I broke my hip, heel, and toe, and had ongoing ankle pain.

How did your training affect your social life?

When I was a sophomore in high school, I did home school for the entire year—so I never saw my friends outside of the gym. I was in the gym from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and some nights I would work until 8 p.m. So, I never had a social life. I still had friends outside, but it was not the same.

In 2019, you chose to step down from the elite level to compete in the top level of the development program and ease some of the demands of the sport. What impact did that have on your life?

I fell in love with the sport again. In the second semester of my junior year [of high school], I came back to school and felt a lot more balanced in life. That completeness has really helped me throughout the rest of my career.

Adeline Kenlin PHOTO: BRIAN RAY/HAWKEYESPORTS.COM Adeline Kenlin celebrates during a regional final of the 2022 NCAA Gymnastics Championships in Raleigh, North Carolina.

What lessons did you gain from elite gymnastics that you’ve applied to your collegiate career?

I know how my body works and how my brain works, and I know how many reps I need to feel confident in myself. I think that’s what college gymnastics is about—getting mentally prepared because all these skills are skills you’ve been doing since you were 10. It’s like riding a bike, once you know what to do mentally, you can do it physically in your sleep.

Iowa hosts the Big Ten Championships this spring. What does that opportunity mean to the team?

It’s amazing. We’re really excited to have it back home, because we only get to host it once every 10 years, so it’s a really exciting moment.

With all your success at Iowa, have you considered pursuing elite gymnastics again?

I’ve not thought about going back. This is where I want to be because I’m so happy, and I know I would not have the same amount of happiness in elite.

You’re currently pursuing a sport and recreation management degree. What are your plans after Iowa?

I want to coach at the collegiate level. I’ve been coaching since I was 14 years old, and gymnastics is all I know. I just want to be that coach that I never had growing up to help lead kids to the path that is best for them.

Join our email list
Get the latest news and information for alumni, fans, and friends of the University of Iowa.

Watch a video of Kenlin’s balance beam performance at the 2022 NCAA championships.

Watch a video of Kenlin’s balance beam performance at the 2022 NCAA championships.

Join our email list
Get the latest news and information for alumni, fans, and friends of the University of Iowa.
Related Articles

We use cookies to understand how you use our site and to improve your experience. By continuing to use our site, you accept our use of cookies in accordance with our Privacy Statement unless you have disabled them in your browser.