Balancing Act: A brotherly bond drives twin gymnasts Akshay and Kavan Puri to success

William Tan, Editor-in-Chief

Walking into the Lakeshore Academy gym is like entering the big top tent of the Ringling Bros. Circus — chalk dust swirls through the air and gymnasts of all ages tumble from every direction. At the center of the excitement are the ringmasters, team captains Akshay and Kavan Puri, who alternate leading warmups with practicing their own difficult skills on equipment like the rings, bars and pommel horse.

William Tan

People like to say the phrase, “talent runs in the family.” For senior twins Kavan and Akshay, this couldn’t be more true, but it’s more an intense dedication and a strong family dynamic that push the twin brothers for long hours in the gym and motivate them to embrace the life of a student athlete. Now the brothers are taking their passion to new heights, flipping and flying their way to the peak of the men’s gymnastics world. 

Gymnastics genes run deep in the Puri family. At the age of 3 or 4, the twins were introduced to the sport by their two older brothers, both also collegiate gymnasts. From then on, gymnastics became a central commitment in their life and an activity to form close relationships.

“When I was younger, my practices were in the city from 4-6:30 every day, and then Saturdays, I’d practice in the morning — Sunday was my day off,” Akshay said. “Now, practice is at 6 p.m. for us now, because I’m an older guy, then we go until 9 p.m. every day of the week, and then Saturday again in the morning until 12:30 p.m. We’re looking around three to three and a half hours every day.”

At its core, gymnastics is about discipline and repetition, and the slightest separating factors between top competitors can come from the turn of a foot or the straightening of an arm. Akshay and Kavan have learned to rely on the other for advice and critique, each bringing an attention to detail which competitively pushes the other to improve.

“We can watch videos of each other doing gymnastics, and we can correct things. We can make comments on things, we can describe the feeling of the skill and be better to each other,” Kavan said. “I think that’s been a huge contributor to our improvement in the sport is the fact that like, whenever we want, we can always get better with the other’s help.”

Being exceptional high school gymnasts doesn’t always feel like soaring through the air on the high bar. As student athletes, both have faced the often-grueling and mundane responsibilities of balancing a challenging high school curriculum with long practices. Sometimes the twins don’t start homework until after 10 p.m. and don’t get home until much later.

When this happens, Kavan and Akshay turn to their gym community and the teammates who have supported them their entire lives. As co-captains and seniors, both brothers embrace the team’s mutual camaraderie and support system. 

I will say when it comes down to it, Akshay is my best support. He is always there. Without him, I don’t really know where I’d be with gymnastics, let alone if I would even be doing the sport.

— Kavan Puri

“Being a leader to my friends, as well as letting them help carry me through life is what has kept me so attached and so committed to the sport,” Akshay said. 

Kai Uemura, teammate and world championship team contender, echoed Akshay’s sentiment and complimented the twins as inspirations for the whole team. 

“They’re really good at making us work hard. They’ve both been trying to get into college teams, and the way they’ve been working to get onto those college teams has just been amazing,” Kai said. “They’ve had like a ton of adversity, injuries and stuff, but all the time they bounce back.”

Now they’re headed to college, with aspirations to continue their gymnastics careers. Akshay has committed to the University of Michigan men’s gymnastics team, and for him, the training and struggles from battling and overcoming countless injuries have culminated in this honor. 

“I’ve spent so much time in sports, sacrificed so much for the sport, and now that it did happen, I just feel so, so thankful,” he said. “I can say confidently that everything I’ve worked so hard for — all of it’s come to full fruition as of this point.”

While injuries this past year set back Kavan’s goals of recruitment to a D1 team, he will take valuable lessons with him to the University of Michigan as well and apply them in a club or intramural setting. 

“I’m a person that’s very goal-oriented, I want to set a goal and achieve it — it’s about the journey to get there. If it’s a tough practice, these are the days you’re gonna look back on when you’re where you want to be,” Kavan said. “So even right now, as I didn’t really reach that goal of being a Division I college athlete, I’m better for it. I’m better for the steps that I took to get there.”

Most of all, the two find that the years they’ve committed to gymnastics have taught them important lessons of leadership, of perseverance, and of what being a real family means. Akshay and Kavan have practiced side by side together from the start, and no matter where they end up in the future, their unique bond — forged from successes and failures, critiques and compliments — will continue to make an impact on their growth as gymnasts and as humans.

“I will say when it comes down to it, Akshay is my best support. He is always there,” Kavan said. “Without him, I don’t really know where I’d be with gymnastics, let alone if I would even be doing the sport.”