Michelle Ikoma, a senior on the North Carolina gymnastics team, has been honored as a 2014 winner of the Arthur Ashe Sports Scholar Award. She is one of four collegiate students selected for the award from a pool of more than 600 minority student-athletes nominated by their schools based on outstanding academic and athletic performance.
“I was shocked that of all the people who were candidates that I was the one selected,” Ikoma said. “It’s an incredible honor. I’m the first UNC recipient, and I was proud to be able to able to represent my university.”
Ikoma, who was a finalist for the award in 2013, was recognized Thursday at the 2014 Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholars Symposium and Awards Luncheon in Fairfax, Va. Between panel sessions in the morning and afternoon, Ikoma and her fellow honorees received their awards at a lunchtime ceremony.
“I was asked to speak and I thanked the foundation and also had the chance to recognize people who helped me get where I am,” she said. “My parents attended and it was great to be able to thank them and also thank the family that I’ve found at UNC, which has been such an integral part of my growth and made me who I am today.”
Ikoma will graduate in May after completing a double major in business administration and exercise and sport science. After graduation she plans to work for Red Ventures, a marketing and sales company headquartered in Fort Mill, S.C.
A conference All-Academic honoree each year of her career, Ikoma helped the Carolina gymnastics team to two conference championships and served as team captain as a senior. After overcoming a torn Achilles as a sophomore, she returned to set career bests and earn second-team All-EAGL honors on uneven bars in 2013.
A Phi Beta Kappa inductee, she serves as co-president of UNC’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and has been awarded the 2014 Wells Fargo postgraduate scholarship. She also earned the Leader of Distinction Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Richard A. Baddour Carolina Leadership Academy.
Other winners of the Arthur Ashe Sports Scholar Award for 2014 are Ishaq Pitt (Maryland-Eastern Shore, men’s basketball), Marvellous Iheukwumere (Columbia, women’s track and field), and John Urschel (Penn State, football). In recognition of the 30-year anniversary of Diverse Issues in Higher Education, the organization that presents the awards, four student-athletes were honored instead of the usual two.
Marcus Paige, a sophomore on the UNC men’s basketball team, was a finalist for the award.
The Ashe Award was initiated in 1992 to honor the late tennis player and activist Arthur Ashe Jr.
April 10, 2014.