February 22nd 2016 saw Olympic and World gold medalist, Kyla Ross announce her retirement from Elite gymnastics in order to pursue her studies and collegiate gymnastics at UCLA. The ever inspiring Gym-Max gymnast from Aliso Viejo,California surprised the gymnastics community when, in her second Elite meet ever she became 2009 Junior National Champion. She burst onto the Elite gymnastics scene with a glorious bang, complete with all green everything, leotards, scrunchies, track suits, the works and Kyla, whilst ditching the green for some red, namely red lipstick, did not leave this scene for a second until today, when she again shocked the gymnastics community beyond words by announcing via Twitter and Instagram that her elite career had come to an end and she would not attempt to gain a second Olympic berth in Rio. Her grace, poise, hard work ethic, perfect form and her smile were a gift to the gymnastics community and her accomplishments whilst an elite gymnast are ones that many can only dream of achieving.
Seemingly unphased by big occasions, big stages and big crowds, following her win at the 2009 Visa Championships, where her sweet and humble nature could be seen in her lack of a toothy grin on the podium, Kyla went on to win titles across the world, namely at the Pan American Championships in Brazil, the Pacific Rim Championships in Australia and the City of Jesolo Trophy in Italy. This incredible junior career, of course capped off by a second Junior AA national title in 2010 and a silver medal AA in 2011.
Kyla Ross accepting her gold medal at the 2010 Visa Championships.
Seemingly unstoppable, Ross went onto seamlessly make the transition from the junior to the senior ranks, quashing any doubts that she would not be able to hold her own amongst the seniors. Competing at the Pacific Rim Championships in Seattle, WA, the City of Jesolo Trophy in Jesolo, Italy and the US domestic events, she managed to remain the top 5 AA at each event, win titles on the uneven bars and balance beam at several competitions and frankly, just be a rock solid competitor, always maintaining her grace and composure, even after being named to the 2012 Olympic team, as a 15 year old girl, Ross showed composure beyond her years and set an example to all watching, young and old, to be gracious in defeat but even more so in victory.
The ever gracious Kyla Ross
Ross smiled with glee but remained composed as she was named to the 2012 Olympic team, a composure that would serve her well as Ms.Ross took on London as the youngest member of the team, won an Olympic gold medal and went on a whirlwind tour of USA, gracing red carpets and talk shows including the Ellen DeGeneres show and the David Letterman show. This composure and love for the sport of gymnastics shown again, when instead of taking a break like other Fierce Five members, Kyla chose to continue to compete and went on to win 5 World medals in 2013 and 2014 (1X gold, 3X silver, 1X bronze), multiple US titles and various other titles at the Pacific Rim Championships and the City of Jesolo Trophy.
This composure carried right through the 2015 season when we witnessed Kyla struggle slightly with niggling injuries and a huge growth spurt. She crumbled slightly at the City of Jesolo Trophy in March, the Secret US Classic in July and the P&G Championships in August, ultimately ending with her pulling out of the World team selection camp in September. However, whilst visibly upset at her falls on the uneven bars, her grace and composure was evident and I, along with many others believed she would come back strong in 2016 and be gunning for Rio, hoping to compete alongside lifelong friend, US T&T athlete, Charlotte Drury, having competed alongside another lifelong friend, McKayla Maroney at the 2012 Olympic Games.
Hand in hand with McKayla Maroney at the 2012 London Olympics.
However, Kyla surprised us all once again, when she announced that she would retire from Elite gymnastics and pursue collegiate gymnastics at UCLA. It was a known fact that Kyla was going to compete for UCLA, however it was believed she would try for the Rio Games first.
Kyla had signed her National Letter of Intent in 2015, accepting a full ride athletic scholarship, but deferring enrollment until 2016, in order to train for the Rio Games. This announcement also coming as somewhat of a surprise as Kyla had, for quite some time stated that she wished to attend Stanford University upon graduation from Aliso Niguel High School and compete with their gymnastics team.
Winning a silver medal at the 2013 World Championships
For what reason she decided on attending UCLA is unknown, however it is quintessential Kyla Ross. She surprised us with her first US AA title in 2009, she surprised us by announcing retirement and she surprised us by her inhuman ability to focus and hit her routines on the biggest stages in the world. Throughout her career, whilst being an excellent role model to young gymnasts for her hard work, dedication and sheer aptitude for the sport of gymnastics, she was also a role model for everyone. Children, teenagers and adults alike. Although having a quiet demeanor, there was something special about her, a quiet strength emanated from her. Behind the gymnastics is a girl who is capable of thinking for herself, knowing whats right for her and going after what she believes.
A quiet strength
She didn’t let herself be influenced by others and be pressured into a college commitment whilst still wearing braces, but rather waited until she knew what was right for her, she never competed a skill that she knew she wasn’t completely confident in, she allowed herself to retire from elite gymnastics and move on to other goals, similar to Elizabeth Price leaving elite for Stanford, just when she was at the top of her game. Kyla knew her heart wasn’t completely there, stating “I went into the first national team camp in January and just felt my heart wasn’t really there”. She took a step back from the hype of the Olympics and reevaluated her desires and ultimately knew her own heart, and instead of half heartedly attempting to make a second Olympic team, she went the opposite way, her own way and announced her retirement with continued grace, making sure to contact all media outlets beforehand and doing things properly, rather than leaving fans scratching their heads.
Kyla will attend UCLA this Fall and hopes to major in biomedical engineering. I’m sure she will have a wonderful experience, clearly already emmersing herself in college life, attending meets, football games and parties with the gymnastics team throughout 2015. Kyla seems to have discovered life in the last year. Life not revolving around gymnastics. We wish this smart, talented, incredible young lady every success in the future, as a Bruin, and beyond. Truly a class act.