BY GRACE GELONE | EDITORIAL INTERN

As a college freshman, I have come to enjoy watching gymnastics, a sport that I had not previously been exposed to. The women’s gymnastics team at UCLA is ranked third in the nation and just brought home the PAC-12 championship this past March. I was fortunate enough to get to see one of their home meets during the 2018 season, which is how I became interested in the program. This led me to reach out to sophomore and UCLA gymnast and 2012 Gold Medalist, Kyla Ross.

Kyla was born in Hawaii. However, she only lived there for a year. In her early childhood, her family lived on the east coast in cities like Myrtle Beach, Greenville, and Richmond while her father played minor league baseball. After he retired, her family moved to Orange County, which is where they reside today. When Kyla started attempting cartwheels and summersaults around the house at age three, her parents decided to sign her up for recreation gymnastics classes, where she discovered her love and passion for gymnastics. The peak of Kyla’s elite career was when she was training for and competing in the 2012 Olympics. During that time, she spent eight hours a day, six days a week focusing on gymnastics. In college, Kyla spends about 20 hours per week on gymnastics. Her commitment and love for gymnastics allowed her to focus on this as her main sport. Kyla did not play any other sports as a kid, but she enjoys watching sports in general, especially at UCLA. As a sophomore, she is a molecular biology major, and renowned gymnast. That being said, I felt that interviewing Kyla and learning more about herself and her passions would be a great way to highlight women in athletics and their dedication and commitment to their sports.

“It’s crazy because people have come to me – like people from my classes that are like the same age as me – and just told me that I’m their inspiration and that’s just something that really touches my heart.” – Kyla Ross

Grace: Why UCLA?

Kyla: So, I had a lot of trouble deciding where I wanted to go to school. Usually, a lot of the athletes tend to commit their freshmen and sophomore years in high school, but just being focused on the Olympics during that time, I waited until senior year. I had trouble deciding between Stanford and UCLA, but once I came to UCLA, I loved the gymnastics team. I had known a lot of the girls already from elite gymnastics, so I felt like I already fit in with the team after going on my official visit. I had also known the coaches since I was younger because I grew up watching the UCLA meets. My parents used to take me when I was younger, and I just grew up being a big fan. Also, just seeing how it was one of the top schools in the nation for academics and athletics was just really awesome because student athletes are just as much focused on school as they are on sports. I love the campus, I love that it’s in LA, it was really just a perfect fit.

G: If you could meet any athlete or coach, dead or alive, who would it be?

K: I think I would say John Wooden. Just being on campus and seeing the legacy he left behind definitely makes me sad that I wasn’t ever able to meet him. Our coach, Miss Val, talks about Coach Wooden all the time just because she was really close friends with him. I think he is someone who definitely has a lot of wisdom and to be able to pass that on to his players is something I think I would’ve loved to have seen, as well as actually getting to see him alive at UCLA.

G: What was it like to win the gold medal in the 2012 Olympics?

K: It was definitely one of the greatest experiences to compete for my country and compete at that level. It was a lot of fun to be able to go and be a part of something so big. Being in the Olympic Village [in London] was one of my favorite parts. I got to see a lot of really famous athletes that I loved growing up and got to take pictures with them which was really cool. It was definitely a little bit nerve-wrecking, but because I trained for all those hours, once I got up and saluted to do my routine, I didn’t really have as much nerves. I was really confident in my training.

G: Do you plan/want to ever go back to the Olympics?

K: I was training for the 2016 Olympics which was right before college. It was definitely hard during the year before the 2016 Olympics because I had already finished high school, so I was taking a gap year and focusing just on training. At a certain point to me I just felt a change in my passion for gymnastics. It felt more like a job than the sport I loved, so I decided to just get ready for college.

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G: So, I know age 12 was really important because it was when you were beginning your career with USA Gymnastics. Accordingly, what is one thing you would tell yourself at age 12?

K: When I was 12, it was my first year competing on the national team. I was definitely really nervous because it was my first time competing for USA gymnastics. So, I would probably just tell myself to enjoy it, it doesn’t last that long and just to have fun. Even though it’s our sport and it’s very serious, I think we all do it because we love it. So I’d just say to do it and compete out of love and fun.

G: How does it make you feel to be a role model for girls all over the world?

K: I think that’s one of the best parts about being an athlete. Just knowing that every time you go out and compete, you’re representing little girls all over the country that look up to you. When we finish meets and have all the girls screaming my name and all the girls on UCLA’s teams name, it is just such an awesome feeling. It’s crazy because people have come to me – like people from my classes that are like the same age as me – and just told me that I’m their inspiration and that’s just something that really touches my heart. It’s so awesome to hear these things because that says to me, by being who I am and competing in my sport, that I have been able to inspire other people to live their dreams. Having those eyes on me reminds me to be a positive role model for everyone who looks up to me.

“So, I would probably just tell myself to enjoy it, it doesn’t last that long and just to have fun.”

G: What do you plan on doing after graduation?

K: Not really sure yet, but I know I want to work in the medical field. I think just being an athlete and through all of my injuries and stuff, I’ve been exposed to it a lot and it’s something that really interests me, so I like learning about the body and how it works. It is very cool and something I really enjoy.

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After interviewing Kyla, her fearless attitude and determined mind resonated with me. As a student athlete at an elite academic and athletic university, Kyla works and works to achieve greatness in both the classroom and gymnastics. Kyla defined how she strives for success every day saying, “Pushing myself and wanting to get better in both school and gymnastics is something that comes from within. Wanting it for yourself and working for whatever it is you want is definitely a key to success for me.” The definition of success that she provides is one that she hopes will inspire all girls who want to get involved in not just gymnastics, but athletics in general. Kyla Ross and her dedication to gymnastics and academics make her a role model for girls all over the world, and I feel that sharing her journey to success is important for everyone to hear. She inspires me, UCLA students, and people all over the world; I hope you will be inspired by her dedication and commitment too.

Each month, one of our high school interns will interview a former athlete and current leader. Our mission is to connect our girl athletes to experienced ones, to tell the stories of our women’s sports community, and to inspire her own voice. Interested in joining our Editorial Internship Program in the fall? Send a brief letter of interest to awesomesportsproject@gmail.com by October10, 2018.

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