Q&A with sophomore gymnast Kahoku Palafox

HIGH-FLYING HAWAIIAN: Initially a bars specialist, sophomore Kahoku Palafox has becoome a contstant presence in the beam lineup for the Sun Devils. (Photo by Scott Stuk)

ASU sophomore gymnast Kahoku Palafox is a Marshall Islands native who grew up just outside of Honolulu in Kailua, Hawaii.A state title on the uneven bars along with a second-place finish in the all-around at the Hawaii State Championships highlighted the dual citizen’s prep career.

As a Sun Devil, Palafox has competed on bars in each meet since her arrival in Tempe, with a 9.900 being her career-best.

However, in the 2010 season the sophomore was added as a staple of the beam lineup with her career-high coming in at 9.850 against then-No. 4 Utah.

The No. 29 ASU women’s gymnastics team is currently 2-11 and is riding a five-meet losing streak.

The State Press: Kahoku is an interesting name, what does it mean exactly?

Kahoku Palafox: It means “The star.”

SP: Do you think your name fits you?

KP: No — well, I’d like to think so, but I’ll let everyone else make that call.

SP: Is there a reason your parents named you that?

KP: My dad really liked the name. He grew up in Hawaii, so me and all my siblings have Hawaiian names.

SP: What was life like growing up in Hawaii?

KP: I don’t really have anything else to compare it to. But it was nice waking up and going to the beach. It’s a little bit of a different world. They have what’s called Hawaiian time, where nobody is on time and everything is play-it-by-ear. It’s a really laid back lifestyle.


SP:
So, can you speak any Hawaiian?

KP:
A lot of times people in Hawaii like to mix in English, Pidgin and Hawaiian. So I just know a bunch of words here and there.

SP: When you got here, did your teammates expect you to show up with a lei around your neck?

KP:
I don’t think so, but we have jokes. Like one of my teammates calls me “Pineapple” and there are certain things that I say weird, like my “a’s” sound weird to them.


SP:
What’s the biggest difference from living in Hawaii to Arizona?

KP: The weather. It’s so humid back home. The weather is so temperamental here. It’ll be rainy in the morning and sunny in the afternoon. I’m not used to the 40 degrees at night and the 80 during the day.

SP: You’ve been here two years. What do you think has been your biggest achievement?

KP: This is going to sound really weird, but climbing the rope for conditioning. I came from a gym back home where my coaches didn’t believe in doing any conditioning, and so coming here last year we trained in the weight room and that was the most difficult thing ever. The very first day I couldn’t even do it while using my feet and everybody else did it easily. So now just this year, I can go all the way up without my feet, so that’s my biggest accomplishment.

SP: So it was a tough transition?

KP: It was so hard to get used to it. We’ve switched our conditioning from the weight room to just in the gym and I like in the gym a lot better, just because it’s more gymnastics oriented. I really did not like weights.

SP: How has ASU coach John Spini helped you improve so far?

KP: He’s helped my performance level, my confidence on events and to help me focus. I knew him from before, but he has his ways.

SP: Is Spini more of a vocal guy or a ‘sit back and watch’-type of coach?

KP: He’s vocal. He likes talking.

SP: The team has struggled recently. What do you think has been the biggest difference between when you guys were doing so well earlier in the season as opposed to the last few meets?

KP: We peaked. There’s that time where you’re like, ‘Oh look, we’re doing good,’ and then you start thinking about everything and you end up over thinking it. The main reason we haven’t done well in the past meets is because of beam. We are getting there though. The past few [practices] it’s been really good.


SP:
What do you think is a realistic goal this weekend at the Pac-10 Championships?

KP:
A 196. We are completely capable of doing a 196.


SP:
What would that 196 do for the team’s confidence level going into the NCAA Regional Championships?

KP: We would all be stoked. I feel like it would be just so uplifting.

SP: Next year you guys have basically everyone coming back, including injured ASU junior Beaté Jones. How good do you think the team will be next season?

KP:
I am so excited. I think all of us with another year of experience under our belts — it will be really good. I haven’t lost hope for this year, but I think we will be doing really well next year.

SP: After ASU, what do you want to do professionally?

KP: I’m still trying to figure that out. I am majoring in sustainability. I’m not sure what I want to do with it or what my options even are at this point, but I know it’s a developing field.

Reach the reporter at tyler.emerick@asu.edu