It would make sense if Levi Jung-Ruivivar was feeling exhausted. The Woodland Hills fourth-grader had endured a long airport delay while waiting to fly from New York back to Los Angeles this Monday, June 6. Total travel time was about 15 hours.
But Jung-Ruivivar is still energized from her past weekend, performing at the national U.S. Secret Classic gymnastics meet in Hartford, Conn. on June 4, an event for promising hopefuls at various competitive levels dreaming of one day soaring and tumbling for the USA Women’s team at a world or Olympics competition.
“Well, the experience was really fun,” she said, eyes sparking. “I thought it was amazing to be at a big meet, and being on a platform. It was bouncier, which was different but I think it helped me. And the experience…I was with a team in a big arena.
“I felt like I was going to a really big meet and I liked it. I had lots and lots of fun. It was one of the most fun meets I’ve ever had.”
Jung-Ruivivar, age 10, who trains at and competes for the Paramount Elite Gymnastics club in Van Nuys, did more than just have fun. She finished second on the uneven bars and fifth in the floor exercise. She continued to put her personal stamp on the 2015-16 competition season in her age group.
Back in early April, Jung-Ruivivar finished first on the uneven bars at the Region One Championship in Las Vegas, and was the youngest girl from her region to qualify for the Junior Olympic Western Nationals (Level 9) event, held later that month in Missoula, MT. She won the uneven bars again, posting in the highest score in the country for her competitive level.
If there’s such a thing as being ahead of schedule at age 10, Jung-Ruivivar appears to be it.
Her coach Sarah Korngold, who’s worked with Jung-Ruivivar for about three years now, is not completely surprised. “She has one of the best work ethics of any kid I have encountered,” Korngold said of her precocious pupil. “She just expects so much more from herself than even I expect from her. She just has that inner drive that I think is something special.”
Yet Korngold admits that, from when she first started working with Jung-Ruivivar to where her current performance level is now, “she’s improved a ton. Sometimes I have to go back and think that last year she was competing at Level 7, which is easy gymnastics.The skills she is doing now (at Level 9 and Level 10 HOPES) are so much more advanced…She essentially skipped a level or two this year. That’s crazy.
“We have to keep reminding her of that as well. But it’s ‘oh my gosh. you were doing [easier routines] a year ago, and now you’re one of the best 10-year-olds in the country.’ It’s amazing.”
Then there’s her family dynamic.
Jung-Ruivivar’s parents are both working actors. Her father, Anthony Ruivivar, worked in the television series “Third Watch,” and did the voiceover role of Batman in the animated series role in “Beware of Batman,” appears in the MTV show “Scream,” in the reoccurring role of Sheriff Miguel Acosta. Her mother Yvonne Jung also appeared in “Third Watch” and has a starring role in the indie movie “Stuff.” The film is about to finish the festival circuit and will be distributed some time next year.
The couple, who married in 1998, also have two sons — Kainoa, 13, and Kale (pronouced Kah-leh), 7. Both parents make sure all their kids are active and pursue a variety of interests
But all of a sudden, one of the children might be very good — even extraordinary — at what she does.
“I definitely think it is a challenge because it is time-consuming, and it gets a lot of attention,” said Jung, adding her sons were “very supportive” of their sister. “But in our family, we make it a point to not spend our whole time at home talking about gymnastics. I don’t think it benefits her, and it’s certainly not good for the boys; they’re excited for her but they’re not particularly interested in gymnastics.
“At home, everyone’s interests are equally as important…I try to keep things balanced for them.”
The hard part will be letting all this develop organically.
For example, if Jung-Ruivivar wants to be an Olympics gymnast, her first chance to make USA team doesn’t come until 2024 when she’s 18. (You must be at least age 16 in women’s gymnastics to be in the Olympic Games, a rule change that was made in 1996).
That means lots of practices and meets between now and then. Also figure another growth spurt or two for Jung-Ruivivar, who currently stands about 4-feet 8-inches.
Still, the recent performances suggest that Jung-Ruivivar has a competitive future ahead of her if she wants, works at it, and has a little luck go her way. It’s a formula for success that many a champion, present and future, has followed.
At the moment, Jung-Ruivivar expresses nothing but joy about gymnastics from the rigorous practice and learning of new moves. “I really love the feeling on my body, and being with my teammates, pushing myself to my limit and working hard,” she said.
And her recent performances have led to some perks. The University of Utah has already sent Jung-Ruivivar a letter of interest regarding college. She has attended camps at the U.S. National Training Center in Huntsville, TX, and got to meet three-time all-around world champion Simone Biles.
“Simone Biles is really nice,” Jung-Ruivivar said. “I went to her gym, and she gave me a little pep talk and cheered me on. It’s amazing to see her do all these amazing skills. And to see that she’s not always so perfect, too.”
Jung-Ruivivar gets to take a break from training for a few weeks, but is already eager to discover what new routines are being planned for the 2016-17 season.
Korngold said she would do what she could to keep her student focused without burning her out. There will be a concerted effort to maintain a balance of school, gymnastics and family time. At the gym, Jung-Ruivivar will not be overloaded with drills and routines.
“The beautiful thing about gymnastics is, it never ends,” the coach said. “There’s always more difficulty; if there’s not you can invent more difficulty. In terms of keeping her challenged, that’s not going to be hard. What’s going to be difficult is keeping her enthusiasm up, making sure she still wants to be here every day, that it’s fun for her, and forever feeling successful with the increasing challenges and difficulties.
“We’ll sit down with her and discuss her goals for next year. It’s important that she’s doing it for herself, and not for me or her parents.”
Count on Jung not to become a stage mother.
“My job as a mother is to raise people that are confident, kind and valuable members of their community,” she said. “Their value in our family is not based on achievement. In fact, especially for Levi — who is very driven and in a competitive sport — we want her to know that her worth at home isn’t based on that.”
Best of all, count on Jung-Ruivivar to remain a kid while she still is one.
No matter how high she flies.