By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky junior Sidney Dukes’ vibrant personality and success rate makes her a role model for young, aspiring gymnasts — and she still has another year to go at Kentucky. She can remember watching Carly Patterson at the 2000 Olympics. In 2004 Patterson was the all-around Olympic champion.
“She was kind of my inspiration. I was 4 or 5 at the time when I first saw her. It was the first big meet I remember watching as a little girl and I thought that was so cool,” Dukes said. “I remember going, ‘Mom, look at her. I want to do that some day.’
“I grew up with the Olympic dream when I was just beginning. I kind of knew I had a passion for gymnastics at a young age. I just loved being in the gym during the day. I loved seeing friends at the gym. It just stuck and seeing Carly, I knew this was what I really wanted to do.”
Dukes has helped Kentucky get to the national semifinals for the first time. Kentucky will compete April 20 in St. Louis for a spot in the national finals April 21st.
She claimed a share of the SEC championship recently with her score of 9.9 on floor. She joined teammate Alex Hyland (2017) and former UK star Jenny Hansen (nine titles from 1993-95) as the only UK gymnasts to have won a SEC title.
Dukes says floor lets her show “my personality with the artistry and creativity” demanded in the event.
She’s feels confident about UK’s chances of continuing to excel because the gymnasts don’t dwell on what they can’t control.
“All athletes require some type of mental discipline but gymnastics is different. If you mess up, you are on the spot and in the moment. You have to let it leave your mind and forget about it until you watch film and get to nitpick what you did. It does take a lot of mental practice,” Dukes said.