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Youngest Gymnast on US Olympic Team Prepares for London


Kyla Ross leaps from the balance beam during practice for the U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials, June 27, 2012, in San Jose, California.

Kyla Ross leaps from the balance beam during practice for the U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials, June 27, 2012, in San Jose, California.

LOS ANGELES — Fifteen-year-old Kyla Ross of southern California is the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team. She says that going to London for the 2012 Summer Games is a dream come true. But getting to this moment means she has had to work harder than most girls her age.

Kyla Ross does not live the life of an average American teenager. She spends 30 to 35 hours a week training at Gym-Max Academy of Gymnastics, just south of Los Angeles. She goes to school only part-time.

"Of course, it's always hard to fit in homework, especially this year," said kyla Ross. "I had to cut back on a lot of school. It sort of feels unreal. I mean, I've been working for the Olympics all my life, and it's something that I've been training for, so to be able to say that is such a dream come true."

Kyla says that although many world class gymnasts would continue their studies through online classes, she has remained in school so she can graduate in four years. Her father, Jason Ross, says it has not been easy.

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"You have to be a very disciplined person from practice to going straight to do your homework," he said. "You might want to rest or hang out with your friends, and people are going out. But you have to stay home and finish your homework or get rest because you have a competition. So [it] definitely takes a lot of discipline."

It also takes discipline of a different kind to handle the pressure of competing at the Olympics, says Kyla Ross's coach, Jenny Liang.

"I feel her biggest challenge at the Olympic Games is her own mind," said Jenny Liang. "Her mind has to be even stronger. She has to think, 'I've practiced this 1,000 times. It's just changing the venue.' If you think too much, you cannot do anything."

Liang and her husband, Howie Liang, have coached Kyla for the past seven years. They met in China as gymnasts for the Chinese National Team and moved to the United States, where they opened the Gym-Max Academy of Gymnastics. The Liangs say that being a coaching team works well in training athletes.

"Between the two of us - look at him, he's very gentleman-like, he's like a grandfather," she said.

"That's how you coordinate," said Howie Liang. "The Chinese say, 'You have to have two sides.' She is sometimes stricter, then I'm nicer."

"They don't really yell at me too much, so that's something that I'm lucky about."

Kyla Ross is the youngest member of the U.S. women's gymnastics team.

"I enjoy sort of being the youngest and having older girls to look up to have advice for [me]," she said.

Kyla was born in Hawaii, where her parents enrolled her in a gymnastics class when she was three years old to burn off some of her energy. Jason Ross says he never expected his daughter to go to the Olympics.

"You just recollect all the times you dropped her off [at] practices, [the] struggles she's had, also the time she's invested into [gymnastics], and the gratifying feeling that she achieved her goal and really put a lot of work into it, and it's actually happening [she is going to compete in the Olympics]," he said.

Again, Kyla Ross:

"From this experience, it's definitely been a really long journey and as my dad tells me, 'You always have to enjoy the moment.' So I definitely want to have fun when I go to London and enjoy being with the team competing, and hopefully representing Team USA as well as we can," she said.

Kyla Ross will be training with her four teammates in Texas before flying to London for the Olympics.
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