As everyone probably already knows by now, world and Olympic champion Kyla Ross announced her retirement today. The news were certainly unexpected and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it’s hard to imagine USA gymnastics without her at this point. Kyla is one of those gymnast who grew up in front of our eyes. We first met her as a tiny, little junior and we watched her become a confident leader for team USA.
I still remember a 13-year-old Kyla in a sparkling green leo, awkwardly dancing her way to her first junior national All Around title in 2009
I remember her hitting routine after routine at the 2010 nationals, until she won the gold medal over Katelyn Ohashi, who was considered the top contender for the title by many. This turned out to be a preview for Kyla’s entire career. She was never the favorite going into a competition, she was never the one that people were expecting to win and she never had the most difficult routines. But when the green light was on, she showed that she is a real champion. She could stay on when others fell and she could handle the pressure when others didn’t, and this was the key for her success.
With her good level of difficulty, her clean execution and her ability to hit under pressure, Kyla never had trouble getting international assignments, so she successfully represented her country all over the world. Who can forget how tiny she was at the 2010 Pacific Rim championships, where she won 5 medals? Or when she won the All Around title of the junior Pan-american championships? Her first Jesolo Trophy seems like yesterday, and now, she has already attended that competition 6 times. She showed incredible potential as a junior, but unlike many other young athletes, she actually lived up to it. She was peaked very well and she had great success from her very first senior year. It was certainly not easy for her to make that Olympic team in 2012. She was a first year senior competing against the world’s very best and she was under tremendous pressure to prove herself but she was freaking brilliant. NBC made an entire fluff about her step out of bounds during the Olympic trials, because it probably was the biggest mistake she had during Classics, nationals and Trials. She hit and hit and hit and she earned that bars and beam specialist spot over many much more experienced gymnasts. The US Olympic team announcement certainly was one of the most memorable moments of the last quad. Jordyn was sobbing, Aly was sobbing, Gabby was sobbing, McKayla was sobbing and I was sobbing but Kyla wasn’t. She was just smiling, while her dreams were coming true, she didn’t show too many feelings and this is why it was so special to see her tearing up after her last routine of the Olympic Games. She’s not the most emotional person out there, but when she landed that double tuck and knew that she really had done her absolute best for her team at the most important competition of her life.
She did not take a break after London, she continued training and she continued competing. She wasn’t the baby of the team anymore, she was an Olympic champion and it was time for her to be a leader and she did a freaking amazing job at it. Lots of the younger American girls, including Simone Biles, have talked about how much she has helped them with her experience and what an impact she has had in their careers. She has been an inspiration and a mentor for the gymnasts of the next generation and this just proves that she has made a difference in USA gymnastics. She is one of the most decorated gymnasts of the quad so far, but she always stayed respectful, humble and polite, and every single person, including her teammates, her coaches and the journalists covering the sport, only has positive things to day about her character.
To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t a big fan of Kyla until very recently. I always appreciated her clean lines and execution and I always admired her consistency, but I don’t ever remember myself rooting particularly hard for her during her junior career or her first year as a senior. However, I tend to root for athletes who always surprise us and as the years passed I couldn’t help but being amazed by this girl’s ability to prove the world wrong every single time. When Kyla headed to Antwerp for the 2013 world championships, I thought she would not win any medals. Instead, she won 3! I also thought she wouldn’t be anywhere near close the top 15 on floor and yet, she became a floor finalist. In 2014, I thought that she would probably not be one of USA’s top All Arounders but she ended up being second behind Simone Biles at both Classics and nationals. I thought she would end up being a bars and beam specialist for team USA, but she actually competed on every single event during the team finals and she did a great job. I thought she wouldn’t have enough difficulty to compete against the world’s best but she actually placed third in the All Around. Τhere were so many times when I thought Kyla had reached her peak and she proved me wrong every single one of them, and I guess this is why I am so surprised to see her retiring.
She had a very rough 2015 and she made major mistakes at ever competition she attended and it was clear that it would be incredibly difficult for her to come back after that. But having followed her entire career, I had absolutely no doubt that she would be able to do it and that she’d prove us wrong once again. It turns out that she has different plans, and after going back and forth with that decision for a while, she decided to put an end to her elite career. It sounds like she just didn’t have the motivation to do that anymore and that she realized she was not where she needed to be at that point. Retiring in the Olympic year is certainly a brave decision and Kyla deserves full credit for having the courage to do that. There’s absolutely no point in staying in elite gymnastics if it’s not something you 100% want to do and she is the only one who knows what’s best for her, so I fully support her decision. She is now going to compete for UCLA and I am sure she will be a super star, who will have a ridiculously successful career in NCAA but I am just going to miss her so much during the year. She had a freaking amazing career and she has achieved everything there is to achieve in this sport. She has been a national champion, a world champion and an Olympic champion and she has definitely left her mark at USA gymnastics. Now, it’s time for her to write history in college gymnastics as well and I’m very excited to see her doing that.
(gif credit: sparklesandchalk)