While competing for the UCLA gymnastics team over the weekend, former Olympic hopeful Katelyn Ohashi performed what is probably the most impressive floor routine I’ve seen -- and I say this in the Simone Biles era.
The performance resulted in a clean sweep of 10-point scores from the judges at the Collegiate Challenge on Saturday, because obviously -- UCLA ended up winning out over the competition. Ohashi sashayed, skipped and somersaulted along to hits like Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September” and Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.” It culminated in a series of flips and tricks that, right from the get-go with an insane back handspring combination, made me regret not sticking to my gymnastics classes in kindergarten.
And that was before she started plunging into drop splits that would land an average human on bed rest for weeks.
The minute-and-a-half routine (which I’ve watched way more times than is necessary) may have you wondering why this flawless competitor is tumbling for a university rather than training for the 2020 Olympics. Ohashi is actually no stranger to elite gymnastics -- she joined UCLA’s team in 2015 years after a stint of Olympic training, and back in the day she beat the unbeatable Simone Biles at the American Cup.
Ohashi was on the USA Gymnastics’s Junior National Team for four years (winning all kinds of medals at Nationals over the years), completely on track to compete with the likes of Biles, Laurie Hernandez and Gabby Douglas. In a personal video for The Player’s Tribune, though, Ohashi describes why she didn’t stay on track for an Olympic career.
On top of facing body image pressures, Ohashi suffered a back injury with two torn shoulders. She went on to explain how she wasn’t finding the happiness in her sport any longer, and used the injury to step away from her Olympic goals and join a college team instead.
“I was happy to be injured. I was told that it was embarrassing how big I’d become. I was compared to a bird that couldn’t fly. These are all things that I’d heard before I’d even gotten injured, things that when I was skinny I heard, so what would they think of me when I had become big?” she said. “I think that gymnastics can be a very brutal sport, but I don’t think it’s supposed to be a brutal sport.”
Instead of returning to elite gymnastics, she went to college and is taking over as a happy collegiate athlete.
“It took me finding Ms. Val and UCLA and having a different goal and path to follow to finally find joy and love within the sport again,” she said in the video.
Now, she’s a NCAA gymnastics champ and obviously a favorite among her teammates -- watch her routine again and keep an eye out for the gals performing the routine along with her on the sidelines.
But even though she’s not on the elite track anymore, there’s no argument that Ohashi has the talent that could have earned her as many medals as she could hold around her neck without falling over. She’s gone viral once before for a magnetic Michael Jackson-themed routine at the Pac 12 Championships from last April.
Girl moonwalked -- she’s a force to reckoned with no matter where she is.