Kyla Ross returned home to her second family Friday morning, home to where it all began, at the Gym-Max Academy of Gymnastics in Costa Mesa.
Before a packed crowd of adoring young gymnasts, local fans and well-wishers, city and district government officials, a high school band and cheerleaders, local and national media, and anyone who ever dreamed of winning a gold medal, Kyla was officially congratulated for her accomplishment and performance in not only helping the US Women’s Gymnastics Team capture the team all-around gold medal, but for proudly representing her country at the 2012 London Summer Olympics.
“Thank you so much for coming out,” enthused Ross, who at 15 was the youngest member of the women’s gymnastics team.
In the minutes leading up to the event, Kyla spoke exclusively with Patch about her life after the Olympics, what she has learned through her Olympic experience and what her future holds.
Patch: Before the Olympics you were just Kyla Ross, gymnast. Now you are Olympic Gold Medalist Kyla Ross. Have you gotten used to your new surname?
Kyla: That is sort of hard to get used to. When you’ve wanted the gold medal for almost your whole life and you get it, it’s such an honor. To be able to say that is such an honor.
Patch: What has been the highlight of your summer, winning the gold medal or getting your driver’s permit?
Kyla (laughs): Well, of course winning the gold medal is great, but I’m really excited to start driving. I’m looking forward to driving to other places and feeling more like an adult.
Patch: What have you learned about yourself through this experience?
Kyla: I’ve learned that training for the Olympics is something that takes a lot of dedication. Going out there competing, you definitely learn that if you train with a lot of pressure you won’t be as nervous. Going out there is definitely more fun now and I definitely enjoyed it because the whole team was more prepared and that sort of took a lot of pressure off.
Patch: You train every day for four years to prepare for one chance to win a medal. But how do you prepare when it comes to dealing with the media?
Kyla: The media is something you have to learn over the years. I remember when I first was interviewed I was really bad and really nervous in front of the camera. But I’ve sort of gotten use to it. It’s a lot of fun to get out in front of big crowds and talk and meet a lot of people. It’s been a lot of fun, especially going to New York and being on all those talk shows.
Patch: How has your success impacted your family, especially your younger sister McKenna who will be a freshman at Aliso Niguel?
Kyla: My sister is really excited to be starting school. She likes the idea of being my sister. She is definitely a lot more social than me. She likes to hang out and go to the beach. She definitely is going to have a lot of fun. I went to registration the other day and there were a lot of people there who were excited to see me.
Patch: Now that you are a celebrity, do you think you’ll become more leery of those who want to be your friend now?
Kyla: A lot of people wanted to come up and congratulate me, and I know some just want to be my friend because I won a gold medal. But I have my close friends at school and they are definitely proud of me so I’m excited to go back.
Patch: Did you get a chance to meet other Olympians while in London?
Kyla: We got to meet a lot of the U.S. athletes, a lot of the swimmers and the volleyball players. I met (beach volleyball gold medalists) Misty May (Treanor) and Kerri Walsh (Jennings). We met a couple of the track people like Lolo Jones. It was fun to be with other athletes who have been training for the same goal as mine.
Patch: The Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions is about ready to go on tour through Nov. 11. Will you be joining your Olympic teammates?
Kyla: I miss my teammates. We spent so much time together. Some of the girls are going to do the whole tour. I’m just going to do the West Coast tour.
Patch: Now that you're back home, what are you looking forward to doing?
Kyla: I am proud to go back to school and back to my teenage life. Being in London and New York was my time to rest. Coming back here, I definitely want to start training again. It’s kind of odd to be on such a high, and then get back into the gym again, but I’m looking forward to getting into routine shape and looking forward to the next Olympics in Rio in four years.
Correction: In a previous version of this story, a photo caption misidentified the principal of Aliso Viejo High.
Note: Ross will be honored by the City of Aliso Viejo and the Aliso Viejo Community Association this Sunday with a first-ever key to the city before the final summer concert of the year at Grand Park Amphitheater. The concert, featuring Stone Soul, begins at 5:30 p.m.