Kalon Ludvigson

By Derek Reinglass
Action photo by Champion Images

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Some crave pressure, while others despise it. Some thrive, some crumble. In the world of sports, the ability to step up and prevail in the heat of the moment equals clutch, the distinguishing trait of a winner.

For Kalon Ludvigson, a 23-year-old gymnast from Sterling, Utah, ice water pulsates through his veins when he steps on the mat. A feeling he now loves, but may never have discovered if it weren't for his mom.

"My mom had to trick me into competing when I was eight years old, because I was too nervous," Ludvigson said. "Soon after my first competition, I learned to love it. I love the nerves and the rush that comes with competing."

As the saying goes, "Mother knows best."

Ludvigson's passion for gymnastics began when he first stepped atop a trampoline.

"When I was eight years old, my mom signed me up for tumbling classes because I was constantly flipping on my backyard trampoline," Ludvigson said.

The backyard trampoline did more than just fling Ludvigson into the air, it bounced him to the upper echelon of tumbling. He has won eight national tumbling titles, nine World Cup medals, three World Championship medals, and is the current world record holder for degree of difficulty in one pass with a mark of 14.8. In 2009, Ludvigson became the first U.S. tumbler in a decade to win a gold medal at a World Cup event, and the first ever to be ranked within the world's top five— he reached No. 2.

Despite all of his success, Ludvigson has his eyes set on achieving even more.

"I want to be world champion," Ludvigson said.

Earning the title of world champion is no easy feat. To achieve his goal, Ludvigson is fully committed to a strenuous practice schedule.

"My training regimen is a morning workout from 6:30-8:30, which includes cardio, weight training, and sauna," Ludvigson said. "I then have conditioning in the afternoon from 4-5 p.m., tumbling from 6-8 followed by another half-hour of conditioning."

Although the goal of becoming world champion drives him, his coach, Justen Millerbernd, ensures Ludvigson maximizes his potential.

Millerbernd describes his coaching style as "European," which is the fancy way to say that he is an old-school, in-your-face coach who demands a full effort, no exceptions.

Ludvigson has learned to embrace the intensity and recognizes Millerbernd's desire to help him reach the top.

"He knows that when I am 'getting in his face,' I am not attacking him. I am just trying to get the best out of him," said Millerbernd, a former junior national champion.

Millerbernd has coached Ludvigson since 2003, when Ludvigson was searching for a more experienced coach. He has remained Ludvigson's coach despite a few gym and location changes.

"He showed up in my gym one day—he was trying out several clubs in the area," said Millerbernd, who was working in Ogden, Utah, at the time. "He popped in one day, and we worked really well together and we decided he was going to stay in my program and that's how things first got started."

"It's been a give-give relationship," Millerbernd said. "So pretty much, he's realized that I'm the best coach for him and I've realized that he's the best athlete that I'll ever have."

Ludvigson also acknowledges the symbiotic relationship.

"I've been with other coaches and stuff like that and it always just doesn't work like the way we work together," he said. "It's always just been a really good relationship in and out of the gym."

Amidst a busy gymnastics schedule, Ludvigson is a pharmacy major at Idaho State University. While some athletes elect to take on a lighter course load or a less demanding major, the aspiring pharmacist takes a hefty dose of high level math and science courses. It's a challenging major in itself, and becomes even more difficult when one has to find time to study while spending more than five hours in the gym every day. Ludvigson credits gymnastics with helping him successfully juggle both.

"Gymnastics has helped me as a person by teaching me discipline, time management, and a positive work ethic that has carried through all parts of my life," Ludvigson said. "The life lesson that has helped me the most is time management."

In the rare case when Ludvigson finds any free time, he enjoys relaxing at home, playing tennis, running, and spending time with his dogs. His favorite food is Mexican and his favorite movie is "Inception."

When asked to describe himself in three words as a gymnast, and three words to describe himself as a person outside of gymnastics, he said, "As a gymnast, (the words) would be determined, focused, and aggressive, and outside of the gym, my words would be patient, diligent, and motivated."

A blend of traits that Ludvigson will need to utilize in the utmost if he is to achieve his dream of one day having a World gold medal and a pharmacy degree.

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