Student-Athlete Spotlight

Kyra Levi - Gymnastics

1. Name: Kyra Levi

2. Class Year: Junior, C’ 18

3. Sport: Gymnastics

4. Position: All-Around, Co-Captain

5. Why did you choose Penn?
When speaking with student-athletes during the recruiting process, it was tough to find groups at other schools who felt as if they could prioritize both aspects of their lives: school and sports. Penn was unique in the sense that the coaching staff immediately laid out expectations of success both in the classroom and in the gym. The athletes similarly expressed their focus on both areas and showed that as a support system, the team and coaching staff created an environment in which school and gymnastics could both thrive. Also, an important piece of the decision was the team itself. There seemed to be such a comfortable, family-like interaction between the girls that I wanted to contribute to and be a part of.

6. What does the experience of being a Penn Gymnastics student-athlete mean to you?
Being a student-athlete for the Penn Gymnastics team is a privilege and an honor that I do not take lightly. The expectations are set high in both arenas, which makes the combination of schooling and athletics an extremely fulfilling experience. More than anything, when I think of what it means to be in this position, I am struck by the opportunity Penn and gymnastics present. It is incredibly humbling to be on a team of nationally competitive gymnasts. It is equally humbling to be in a classroom of valedictorians. The fact that people who can and always will expect the best from me surround my school and sport spheres is an undeniable chance to continually grow as an individual and as a team player.

7. What has been your favorite moment/memory with Penn Gymnastics?
Although I immediately think of the team’s Ivy Championship victory two years ago and how incredible that success felt, the fondest memory of my time with Penn Gymnastics comes from the first day of practice this pre-season. We have a young team, and so naturally, we were anticipating what the new skill level and dynamic would be like. I have never felt more excited for a season than I did that first day, when you could look around the gym and actually see the hard work people had put in over the past few months. The skills were clean. There was nobody giving less than their absolute best. The team was pushing itself to be better on day one. The energy was higher than I had ever felt it. That day was a gentle but obvious reminder of why it is so special to be a part of this group.

8. What has been your favorite class to date and why?
My favorite class at Penn thus far was Autonomic Physiology, in which we broke down the central nervous system to understand and explain human reflexes and automatic pathways. You could tell the professor genuinely enjoyed her job when teaching the material and interacting with students, which naturally made lecture more engaging. The information and the way it was delivered sparked my interest so that when I studied, it didn’t feel like a chore, but rather like a story.

9. What does life after Penn look like (where you live, what you will be doing)?
As the youngest of five children, my ideal scenario is one in which I am neighbors to my four siblings on one side and to my parents on the other. Although unrealistic following graduation, I do hope to reach this goal in the future. More immediately, however, I would love to live in Boston or Chicago where I hope to work for a health or life sciences consulting firm. As I will no longer be doing gymnastics, I hope to coach young athletes starting in the sport and to, hopefully, pass along the love I have for it. If I may continue to paint the perfect picture, my future dog will be well-trained on a leash so that he/she can run alongside me.

10. What are some lessons that you have learned through athletics at Penn that will stay with you after graduation?
A major takeaway from my time with Penn Athletics is the importance of remaining humble through good times and bad. At no point were we beaten down for a hard practice or for mistakes we made at meets. Instead, we were reminded to hold our heads high, but not out of arrogance - out of confidence that we could and would make the necessary changes to prevent the same mistake(s) from happening again. Similarly, we were never over-compensated for a success. An individual’s triumph was the team’s triumph, and it was used to foster more confidence. This is applicable in, I believe, every area of life, and I intend to maintain this lesson as a priority.
An equally important lesson, and one that I think will be crucial in the ups and downs of life, is the value of optimism. On a small scale, it may be easy to smile on a tough day. But what has made an impression on me is that through a grueling pre-season or an exhausting exam schedule, the conscious choice of approaching those trying times with optimism can make the difficulties pass by much smoother.

11. Last year, over 143 Penn Gymnastics alumni, family and friends made a financial contribution to your program to help provide you with things like equipment, training tools, uniforms, travel to away meets, meals on the road, sports medicine and sports performance.  What would you say to those who invest in your experience as a Gymnastics student-athlete?
To the 143+ donors to the Penn Gymnastics program: my gratitude – and my entire team’s – goes well beyond what we may say in thanks. Our morning practices, our extended workouts, our meets are all because of, and FOR you, the supporters of this program. We aim to pay back your unwavering support by building a stronger, better team each year, and in doing so, demonstrate that your efforts in supporting us are never unnoticed. The pride you have in the university and in Penn Athletics breeds pride in us, as we continue to strive for the success of Penn sports in your name. The foundation of our team is built upon your generosity, and we thank you so very sincerely.