//Olympics 2024
Levi Ruivivar Heads To Paris Reconnected With Her Filipino Roots 

Levi Ruivivar Gears Up For Paris Further Connected With Her Filipino Roots 

Paris-bound gymnast Levi Ruivivar visits the Philippines for the first time, giving back to young gymnasts and providing an insight into her Olympic preparations. 

From just a sole representative in Tokyo, Philippine gymnasts now comprise a good chunk of our Paris-bound Olympians. This time around, the homegrown Caloy Yulo will now be accompanied by debutants like Aleah Finnegan and most recently qualified Emma Malabuyo. 

But another impressive talent in that group is the 18-year-old Levi Ruivivar, who is the youngest Filipina athlete in the Paris-bound delegation. The young gymnast booked her Paris ticket in April, winning a silver medal for uneven bars at the FIG World Championships in Doha, Qatar.

And with a good two months before Paris, the young Levi finally stepped foot in the Philippines, being here from May 28 to May 31, a quick break before she resumes Olympic training in Dallas, Texas. 

“Everyone has been so welcoming, and to see how much people believe in me here, and to spend some time in the Philippines, it’s been truly amazing….that motivates me to go back home and just give it my all, even my best training, and perform well for the country,” she shared.

Currently, Levi’s stay has been limited to official business, according to her father Anthony. Save for eating authentic Filipino food, the Ruivivars experienced, as they shared, “the best of the Philippines by having to just take care of the things we have to take care of.” 

But while this stay has prevented her from being a balikbayan, Levi made sure to inspire young Filipina gymnasts. Shortly before a press conference with Caloy Yulo in Intramuros, the 18-year-old gymnast interacted with a group of youngsters, even donating old leotards for these future stars to use.

Levi Ruivivar Thursday
Levi Ruivivar [middle in red and white shirt] after giving her old leotards. (Photo Credit: RJ Ballecer)

Well after that event, Levi was still more than accommodating toward other groups of young gymnasts, giving autographs, and gracefully accepting photo requests as the day went on. 

“Just to give back to the younger generations is amazing. And if I can help them in any way in their journey, like, it’s just an honor to help them and be part of their journey, and to give them any inspiration and just you know? Talk to them, get to know them,” Levi said on Thursday.

As a bonus, this short trip also saw Levi cross paths with Caloy. While the homegrown star has yet to give her any advice, Levi shared looking up to the Tokyo Olympian’s demeanor as an athlete.

“He’s so poised and the way he carries himself in competition and practices for competition is something that I can look up to. And he’s really humble, just hardworking, so I have so much respect for that and I try to take some of that with me in my gymnastics as well,” she shared.

Always close to home 

Levi Ruivivar’s Filipino roots come from her father Anthony Ruivivar, son of Society of Seven founder Tony Ruivivar. Particularly, lolo Tony was crucial as to why Levi had the lifelong dream of representing the Philippines. 

“He’s [Tony Ruvivar] one of the main reasons, Because, I grew up around the entertainment industry, because of the Society of Seven. I grew up in the showroom, I grew up with a lot of Filipino uncles. And, just being around that, I really wanted to connect with that side of my family and that part of my culture,” she recalls. 

Eventually, Levi would complete her switch to the Philippines in September 2023. After years of having no connections, an opportunity would present itself through her Dallas training ground: the World Olympic Gymnastics Academy (WOGA) Gym. 

Levi Ruivivar Emma Malabuyo
Levi (right) with teammate and fellow Fil-Am gymnast Emma Malabuyo. (Photo Credit: Levi Ruivivar on Instagram)

Apparently, someone was able to connect Levi to Cliff Parks, a coach affiliated with the Philippines’ gymnastics team. If the name sounds familiar, Parks was also the coach who recruited Emma Malabuyo to carry the Philippine flag. 

“So, he recruited me to the Philippines, and once I discovered there was a lot of opportunity for me, I immediately switched…[but] I’m very, very grateful to the US because they have done a lot for me,” she shares. 

And the rest is history. More than finally achieving (part) of a lifelong dream, Levi’s Olympic debut also came way earlier, as she was once aiming for the 2028 games in Los Angeles. 

“I was not expecting to [enter Paris]  I mean, I was obviously working towards it, but, the ultimate goal was always 2028. So, the fact that I was able to make it sooner than that is just a blessing.” 

Getting ready for Paris

As mentioned, Levi Ruivivar will head now to Dallas after this brief Philippine visit. While she qualified through uneven bars, Levi will actually compete in the all-around event in Paris, where a finals berth gives her a tangible shot at a medal. 

With two months left before Paris, she now hopes to improve on her “e-score” and “difficulty scores” once she gets back. All the more that as a taller gymnast, Levi has an edge in terms of “artistry” and “expression” rather than power.

“Also working on conditioning and building strength so that once I get to Paris, I have the endurance to get through all the competitions,” she said. 

There’s also a lot to look forward to in Paris for Levi apart from her debut. Her young age aside, this is also the first time in six decades that female gymnasts will be representing the country in the Olympics.

Second, is the overall dynamic of the Philippine team according to her: “I feel like we all feed off each other’s energy, like we all motivate each other, cheer for each other. As they say, the Philippines is probably one of the loudest teams out there cheering for one another.”

“We go to each other’s competitions and support one another no matter what because it’s important to feel like a team, feel like a family, so I feel like we all have a lot of energy, a lot of support, a lot of respect for one another and I think that’s something that’s specifically really special about this team,” she said.

Last, is just the overall experience of making her Paris debut. A tall order yes, but all that’s left for Levi Ruivivar is to give her all once the games start. “Making the Olympics was always my goal so I’m just really, really excited to go out there and do my best. Go big and make the finals and hopefully win medals for the Philippines.”

Banner Image by RJ Ballecer.

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