A gold medal may have been on the line, but Kyle Levine was cool.
"I don't think he feels the pressure," said Kyle's father, Steve Levine. "He just enjoys it. I think he just enjoyed being around so many people."
He also enjoys winning. The 13-year-old Tarzana boy captured the gold as an equestrian in the working trails category of the Special Olympics World Games held at Yale University July 1-9--the only San Fernando Valley winner of a Special Olympics gold medal this year.
When he dons a cowboy hat, red-haired Kyle looks like any other young ranch hand. But for some reason still not understood by doctors, his brain stopped growing a few months after he was born. He had to be taught many of the things others learn instinctively, and today Kyle has the mental capacity of a 5- to 7-year-old.
But he can ride a horse.
"The one thing I stress with Kyle: It's just to ride the best he can," Steve Levine said.
Kyle was first put on a horse when he was 4 to help him develop motor skills. It also helped develop confidence as he learned he was controlling the horse. For the past four years, he has trained with the Tri-Valley Special Olympics program at a ranch in Chatsworth.
He qualified for the world games after winning the gold at the state Special Olympics last year.
"What's special about Kyle is he has a twinkle in his eye, and you can see his sense of humor," said Margaret Clare, who coached Kyle for six months before the world games.
Kyle has an identical twin brother, Asher, who is not disabled. Steve Levine, a part-time photographer who works in the computer industry, said he "would not trade Kyle for anybody in the world."
Kyle, he said, has taught him how fragile life can be. "It's a daily lesson in patience and appreciation."