“I obviously love Elite gymnastics, and I do like how intense and serious it is. It’s something I’ve always loved about it, and that’s the reason why I continue doing it and the reason why I started in the first place. It’s just the extra level of intensity that I love, and it’s something I love to pursue.”

This interview originally appeared on InsideGym.com on July 15, 2022

Update: Jung-Ruivivar placed 14th AA at the U.S. Championships in Tampa and will compete in the Szombathely World Challenge Cup this week alongside her U.S. teammates Addison Fatta and Katelyn Jong with competitors from 26 countries with apparatus titles at stake. Qualifications begin Friday at 9am ET. Women’s vault and bar finals will take place Saturday with beam and floor finals on Sunday. Finals sessions begin at 9am ET. Both qualifications and finals will be streamed directly on matsz.hu

 


TCT’s Levi Jung-Ruivivar Is Ready to Shine in the Senior Ranks!

By Christy Sandmaier

In many ways, it feels like we’ve been watching and admiring Levi Jung-Ruivivar’s gymnastics for a very long time. So it’s hard to believe she just made her senior women’s debut in February at the 2022 Winter Cup where she placed eighth in the All-Around and fifth on bars. 

Long known for her gorgeous lines and absolutely beautiful toe point, Levi is ready to take her artistry to the next level on all events while working hard to showcase her power on floor especially, in order to compete for the top All-Around spots and earn international assignments for Team USA. In April, she competed at the 2022 DTB Pokal Mixed Cup, earning gold with her team. That experience in particular, along with the time she spent after the competition training with the Swiss national team, has helped increase her competitive excitement and confidence as she looks ahead to what’s next. It’s also made her all the more grateful for every opportunity she has had in the sport and extremely thankful to her family for sacrificing so much to get her here.

Last summer, Levi watched her own Twin City Twisters teammate Grace McCallum reach the pinnacle of the sport and bring home a silver medal as part of the U.S. team in Tokyo. This summer, she’ll begin her own climb towards Paris in 2024 alongside her gym mates Temple Landry, Lexi Zeiss, Elle Mueller, and Katelyn Rosen. While their goals are high and the work is of course, extremely hard day in and day out, Levi says the friendships and camaraderie are the best part of having so many Elites in the gym at once. 

“I’m super grateful for them because I feel like it’s not very common to be on a team with other Elites,” she told us. “But there’s a huge group of us and we all understand what it’s like being a gymnast and the sacrifices you have to make. So they’re just my best friends! They are always cheering. Everyone is super excited to be there and everyone wants to be the best. Everyone values hard work and work ethic.”

In this very candid interview, Levi, who was born in LA and whose parents are both actors, gave us great insight into her gymnastics goals and a really fun glimpse into her personality off the competition floor. Her perspective on what’s important to her was truly enjoyable to hear, as was learning about her journey to the senior ranks alongside her teammates. It was the kind of interview that really makes you sit back and remember just how extraordinary these athletes are, how much they accomplish in just one day, and how much they are able to inspire the next generation to follow in their footsteps. 

As we head to the U.S. Classic at the end of July and Championships in August, here’s an inside look into the life of rising U.S. star Levi Jung-Ruivivar!

I feel like we’ve been watching you for a long time. It’s hard to believe this year is your senior debut!

It’s been so long! I was actually just thinking about how many of us started out in the Elite path, and then it’s such a rigorous program that only a few of us are still doing this sport and are still at this level. So I was just thinking back to that, and I was just amazed at how far we’ve all come! I was going to camp with Konnor (McClain) and Nola (Matthews) and Kayla (DiCello) and all of them when I was like seven or eight and going to the national team camp at Karolyi Ranch – we all grew up together… It’s been a long time.

Your generation has been through so many changes with the national training sites, coordinators, formats, anything and everything. How has that been for all of you as athletes and making those adjustments? Do you feel like it’s finally starting to smooth out?

So it definitely has been a challenge. We’ve been to, like, five different locations. We were at Karolyi Ranch, and then we went to Flip Fest and then we were in Florida and then we were in Indiana. It’s been crazy, but yeah, I feel like it has been somewhat of a challenge adjusting so many times to either a new facility, a new coordinator. I think now, throughout the whole process, they’ve really been trying to move forward and be positive and make good changes to the program. Knowing that, I’ve been happy they’ve been trying to do that. Now I do feel like things are starting to smooth out.

I’m super happy that they named the new coordinators and they have more people and more staff, and I’m really excited to be able to move forward and hopefully everything stays a little more consistent and a little more permanent. That would be great! But, I know they’re just trying to do their best to improve and make some changes to the program. So I respect that, and I’m happy that they’re doing that.

You had a great outing at the Winter Cup and then you went to DTB and did well there. What’s the time period been like for you after those two meets as far as getting ready for Classics and preparing for Championships? Tell me what you’re working on and how you’re feeling!

I feel great! I’m really hoping to get some upgrades in my routines for the U.S. Classic and Championships. I feel like I am known as being super elegant, clean, and doing a little bit more of those types of skills. But I have been working on more power tumbling and a little bit more of that. I’m excited to hopefully put that in my routine and show that I can have that aspect of gymnastics as well. I’m not saying I don’t like the elegant side of gymnastics — I love doing artistry and showing off my dance and showing off my form! That’s something I value a lot. But I’m also excited to hopefully put some of those upgrades in my routines.

Do you want to mention any more about the tumbling that you’re working on?

I’m hoping to get some upgraded passes on floor like a double layout. Maybe a whip + double back would be great! Right now, I’m working Yurchenko 1.5’s on vault, which I have competed, but I’m also working with doubles. So maybe not for this season, but next season I’m hoping to get the double. [I’m also working] some upgrades on beam, like my new mount, maybe some more leaps, [and] trying to do some new dismounts.

You had an opportunity to travel to Switzerland to train with the Swiss team earlier this year! How was that?

After the DTB Cup, we traveled to Switzerland, and I was with my teammate Katelyn Rosen, and we had a really good time! We got a train in their facility, which is gorgeous! It’s in the mountains, and they have these massive open windows, and all the girls were so sweet. It was nice to see how the national team works for them versus our national team. Most of them stay there throughout the whole year, so it’s a lot different than our national team camps, obviously, we have them every month or few months versus they’re there the whole time. So it was definitely a little different, but it was really fun to see how their program works.

How did you feel competing at DTB? Tell me about any challenges you had, but then all the fun stuff that you got to do as well…

It was really fun! I actually had no issues adjusting to the time. My coach was like, ‘okay, you’re just going to go to sleep on the plane. Don’t worry about meals and stuff. We’ll get you meals when you get here, so just focus on sleeping.’ So I just slept the entire plane ride and that set me up for working out when we arrived there. Also, I worked out at 4:00 a.m. that morning at my gym. So I got up at like three, I did a workout and then I went home, showered, and then went to the airport. So already my coach had me adjusting to the schedule before I even left. So that was nice. 

Challenges… I would say pacing yourself throughout the whole week because you’re there for a while and you have to do routines every single day. So I would say making sure that you’re pacing how many routines you’re doing, what the reps are like, and just knowing that you have to maintain that endurance and mental endurance throughout the whole week until the competition, so that you can peak at the competition. That’s something that I think was really helpful for me to go there because I had to learn how to do that. 

In terms of fun things, I actually was super excited because I got to compete with the male gymnasts, which was such a different experience, but so much fun. We were the very last competition to go, so the whole U.S. team was watching us in the stands and they were so loud and they were like the best cheering squad ever. And I think Annie (Heffernon, USA Gymnastics’ vice president of women’s gymnastics) came up to me after my first event and she was like, ‘okay, do you want me to tell them to dial it down because they’re really loud?’ I was like, ‘No. Maybe just tell them to be a little bit more quiet on beam, but on floor and vault, they can cheer as loud as they want!’ So that was actually a really funny experience! 

All the girls were so sweet. Just kind of those in between moments, in between training where you really get to know everyone. Nola was my roommate and we had such a good time together. Every night we were giving each other pep talks like, ‘okay, we got this.’ We knew what to say to each other to calm ourselves down or hype each other up. So I was really grateful that I got to be her roommate and that we understood what we needed to do to mentally prepare for the competition. And then just making sure we got ready at the correct times and we were checking a schedule together! Just being able to compete internationally was such an honor for me and I hope to do it again. It was really exciting!

For this season and then going forward, what’s on your radar? 

I hope to get more international assignments so I have more experience under my belt. For U.S. Classics and Championships, I want to make the national team. Like I said, I want to compete my upgrades, improve my consistency, and clean up my form so that I can get those higher scores. After that, there are a few more international assignments this year. I’m not sure which ones I’m trying to go for yet. Usually my coach doesn’t plan that far ahead and it depends on where I’m at that point in the season. But I would hope to make some of those international assignments at the end of the year. In terms of Paris, which is so exciting, it’s a lot shorter because the year went over for the 2021 Olympics. I would say my coach is just trying to focus on building our strength and our endurance so that we are able to put the upgrades into my routines, so that when [2024] comes, we are able to compete the upgrades and improve our difficulty and execution score so that we have the best opportunity to make that Olympic team.

Is the shorter road to Paris exciting or does it add a little bit of daily pressure? 

It’s definitely a lot of emotions. I’m super excited for the future, and I just love gymnastics so much. It’s been such a big part of my life, and no matter where I go, I’ve put so much work into it, and I know that I’m really happy to just be doing this sport. It does add some pressure because the turnaround was so quick and we’ve had less time to prepare than other people, especially with COVID as well, which has been a major obstacle. But I’m really excited!

Do you see yourself as a leader of the team in any way going forward? You and your teammates, like you said, you’ve all been through a lot together!

In terms of the group of Elites that I’ve kind of grown up with, I feel like we all have a special connection with one another because we have been through that system, and there’s just a special bond. I feel like we’ll be bonded for life because of it. We spent so much time together when we were little, I feel like we’re almost like sisters. So I feel like, yes, I do see myself as a leader because I’ve been in it for so long, and I understand what it’s like being an Elite.   

I really do pride myself in having a positive mindset and positive attitude in gymnastics, in trying to lead the team. When I was in DTB, me and Curran (Phillips), who’s one of the male gymnasts at Stanford, were hyping each other up and trying to get the group together. Like, ‘Okay, we got this. Let’s do this. Let’s finish this event strong.’ We were giving our teammates little pep talks, and I do enjoy that part of gymnastics. I do enjoy bringing other people up and letting them know when it’s go-time. So, yes, I do see myself somewhat as a leader in that circumstance.

And I would imagine in your own gym, you have a lot of the younger ones looking up to you and asking you for advice…

There are a lot of younger gymnasts at our gym who are super sweet. And we do have other Elites at our gym who are my age, like Temple, Lexi, Elle, and Katelyn are all senior Elites, but some of them haven’t been doing Elite as long. I feel like you really have to kind of mentally conserve your energy during camps or competitions in Elite because it’s like you’re warming up everything and then you’re waiting, and then you warm up again and then you compete. You have to figure out when to mentally relax and let off some steam and when to focus in so that you can compete at your best. So in terms of that, I feel like I’ve been good at giving them advice. At camp it’s very mentally draining because the whole time you’re being watched by the national staff, every turn you want to make it count. So I feel like just giving them advice in terms of that is, I think, helpful towards them. I hope it’s helpful!

In terms of advice for younger gymnasts who look up to me, I would say just really enjoy the sport. Enjoy moving your body through space and enjoy the process. There are ups and downs in gymnastics, and that’s just part of the sport. Just enjoying what you do every day to reach your goal and all the little accomplishments that you get along the way, I think that’s super important. Knowing when to be happy with where you’re at, knowing when to know when to be honest with yourself like, ‘Okay, I can do more,’ is some advice I’d give them. 

Thinking about Tokyo, how much did you watch, how inspiring was it, and what did you think of the U.S. Team’s performance? There were a lot of ups and lots of downs, but triumphs in the end…

As a whole gym, we got up really early because Grace McCallum, my teammate, was competing, and TCT is so supportive of all their Elites and all their JO’s. So we all got up at four in the morning, went to the gym, and had the final team competition projected on the wall. And it was definitely a roller coaster. Honestly, I was so inspired by how the team was so cool and collected. Think about how stressful that must have been for them! But they came together as a team, they did their job, they stayed so calm, they got up there and they did their routines, and they finished pretty strong. I was super proud of Grace and the rest of the team with how well they handled that situation. As a gymnast and knowing what it must have been like to be in that situation, I was just so proud and so inspired. And I would hope that if I was in that situation, I would be able to stay just as calm and just do what I know I can do and just do my gymnastics and get it done.

Have you had a chance to talk with Grace about that experience and how she’s doing at Utah?

I haven’t actually had a lot of time to talk to her. I would say she really enjoys Utah. She told me it’s a lot different than Elite gymnastics. She really likes the team. She really likes being able to spend some more time doing activities outside the gym and focusing on school work as well. In terms of coming back from Tokyo, she didn’t have a lot of stories to share with us. I feel like she just talked to us about the little things, like more personalized stuff. She talked to me about what it was like in that circumstance. She came into the gym, I think it was actually, like, three days after she got back from Tokyo, and we were doing a double practice day, and she just came in. I don’t know also if she just didn’t really want to talk about that whole thing because she had just done it, and she was probably swamped with interviews and stuff. So I think she just wanted to relax and talk about more normal stuff!

You seem to really embrace the team atmosphere! What are you thinking about as far as doing college gymnastics?

I’m so excited to do college gymnastics! It’s been a dream of mine since I was really little and I found out there was college gymnastics. Because I was maybe seven when I first moved to Paramount… I didn’t know a lot about gymnastics. I was like, ‘okay, my goal is to do level 10 when I’m ten, and then I’ll be done, because that’s all there is in gymnastics. It’s just level 2 through 10’ and that’s all I thought there was! And then I was like, ‘Oh, there’s college gymnastics and there’s Elite. I want to do that now too!’ I really do enjoy the team environment. Since it’s (past) June 15, I’ve been able to start talking to colleges, and that’s been a really exciting experience. I really love talking to the college coaches and hearing what they have to say about their programs. I’m looking forward to going on some official visits soon, hopefully. I’m really excited to also focus on the more energetic side of gymnastics. 

I obviously love Elite gymnastics, and I do like how intense and serious it is. It’s something I’ve always loved about it, and that’s the reason why I continue doing it and the reason why I started in the first place. It’s just the extra level of intensity that I love, and it’s something I love to pursue. 

Who is Levi outside of the gym? 

It’s a little different! I would say when I’m in the gym and when I’m at competitions, I tend to be pretty serious. I like to conserve my energy throughout the meet, so I might seem very solemn but outside the gym, I love hanging out with friends, I love hanging out with family. I think I’m one of the funny people in our friend group, or maybe I’m not! (laughs) But I do enjoy making jokes and laughing a lot. And I really enjoy baking. I bake a lot of pastries and stuff, not just like cookies and cupcakes, but like croissants and breads and all that kind of stuff. I play the drums and the ukulele. I mean, it’s kind of hard to have a lot of a social life outside of gym because I am homeschooled and I am doing gymnastics, which is a lot of hours of training. But yeah, I would say I think I’m pretty bubbly and warm outside of gymnastics. And I enjoy good laughs.

Tell me a little bit about the support system around you and staying grounded…

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. Both my parents are actors, so they kind of have to work in LA or New York. And then I have two brothers. My older brother is 19, and he goes to Brown, and then my little brother is 13. My older brother’s name is Kainoa. My little brother’s name is Kale. I can’t even say how amazed and grateful I am for them and all the support they’ve given me throughout the years, all the advice and feedback I’ve gotten from my mom, my dad and my brothers is just amazing. So in terms of a support system, they are absolutely the best support system I could ever ask for! It’s not easy being parents when you have an Elite athlete, but I’m just super happy that I have such an amazing family because my mom and dad, they’re here with me, but they do have to travel for work or go back to LA for auditions or whatever they need to do in terms of work. So I’m just so happy that they moved here with me.

The first day I went to TCT, I knew it was the gym for me. Sarah (Jantzi) and all the other coaching staff are just amazing. There’s a huge coaching staff at TCT. We have about six coaches and they all bring something to the team. Sarah really is determined to build me as not just an artistic gymnast, but also more of a tumbler and vaulter and she still is able to build on my artistry and use my strengths and build my weaknesses. If I’m having a bad day, [my teammates] come talk to me. If I’m having a good day, they’re excited for me and I hope that I reciprocate that to them as well.

Finally, what’s something that you really want people to know about you or watch for in your routines?

I’d say I pride myself on my elegance and artistry. So in terms of my floor, I would say maybe watch for my facial expressions, because Sarah and I are both really determined on how to get my execution score up in terms of artistry. I really enjoy making expressions in my face that are similar to what my floor team is trying to express. So I would say maybe watch that in my floor routine! On bars, I would say my lines. A lot of people know me for my toe point, so maybe watch for that. I’m just excited to continue competing because with COVID and then not doing Championships or Classics last year, I feel like people haven’t really gotten to see me compete a lot. So I’m just excited to go out there and compete again. I’m so grateful for all the opportunities I’ve gotten, and I’m excited to have more.

Photos by Lloyd Smith and Grace Chiu for Inside Gymnastics

For more:

2022 U.S. Championships

2022 Winter Cup Photo Gallery

Skye Blakely Ready to Soar

U.S. Junior Champ Katelyn Jong Ready For The Jump To The Senior Ranks 

Rising Star Nola Matthews Readies For The Road Ahead 

Joscelyn Roberson – A Star On The Rise 

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