Kyla Ross: "I really just enjoyed my career as a gymnast"

The 2012 Olympic gymnastics champion reflects on her career and Simone Biles' evolution as a gymnast

By Scott Bregman

It wasn’t exactly the ending Olympic champion Kyla Ross had in mind for her two-decade long gymnastics career.

Ross, one of only two women (along with Madison Kocian) to have picked up World, Olympic and NCAA gymnastics titles, was in her senior season at the University of California-Los Angeles. Her incredible career headed almost certainly to more hardware until the coronavirus pandemic ended the season weeks early.

But even if it wasn’t exactly as she’d imagined, she’s come to terms with that ending - despite pleas from her adoring fans for a return to elite gymnastics competition.

"I really just enjoyed my career as a gymnast,” Ross said during a live workout on Olympic Day. “Ending it with college was something that I always kind knew I was excited to do.”

The last woman to beat Biles

Six inches taller than when she helped Team USA’s ‘Fierce Five’ to its first women’s artistic gymnastics Olympic gold medal in 16 years, targeting a Tokyo return, Ross says, would be more complicated than one might expect.

“People were saying that, like, once [the Olympics] got postponed, they're like, ‘Oh, it's perfect timing.’ But I think it's funny,” she said, before noting that collegiate rules allow her to accommodate her height by raising and widening the uneven bars settings and raising the vault height.

"It would kind of be a lot to go back and change all those settings," Ross said,"and I think my time is done."

Ross' time in the sport took her to the highest heights. One of the many accolades to Ross’ name – in addition to winning Olympic gold and six World championships medals – is that she is the last woman to have beaten Simone Biles in all-around competition.

That victory came at a USA, Romania and Germany tri-meet in early 2013. Biles has since won six U.S. titles, five all-around World championships and the Olympic Games. During Ross’ Olympic Day workout, she recalled a story about competing with Biles as a junior athlete.

"Her first year elite, she was actually in my rotation [at the U.S. championships], so this was when I was still a junior,” Ross said. “She fell three times on bars. She got off and went to Aimee [Boorman], her coach at the time, just like, ‘I caught my Tkatchev!’

“She had fallen three more times in her routine, but all she show she cared about was catching her Tkatchev,” Ross continued, “so it was so funny to see her kind of go from there, being a little more inconsistent, but still having that raw natural talent and kind of finding that consistency throughout the years and just being this dominating force in setting all these world records. It's so crazy.”

A bright future

Though her competitive days are behind her, Ross won’t be going too far away from the sport at least at first. The 23-year-old says she’ll serve as an undergraduate assistant coach for her UCLA Bruins team as she finishes up the few remaining classes she needs to graduate.

“I'm going back to UCLA in the fall to finish up my major. I have two more major classes and then a lab,” Ross, who is studying molecular, cell and developmental biology, told Olympic Channel. “And then I'm helping coach with the UCLA gymnastics team while I'm still in undergrad.”

After that, who knows what the future holds for Ross, who shared the approach that has helped her achieve so much in sport.

Says Ross, “It’s just believing that you can before you can even do it.”