Why Katelyn Ohashi Chose Collegiate Gymnastics Over the Olympics

Culture
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YouTube/The Players Tribune

UCLA Gymnast Katelyn Ohashi is no stranger to the spotlight, having performed gymnastic routines in front of big crowds since the age of three. And over the weekend, Ohashi was back in the spotlight, thanks to her now-viral Michael Jackson-themed performance at the Under Armor Collegiate Challenge, which left the Twitterverse and the judges mesmerized, as she walked away with a perfect 10 score.

But even with all the recognition and fans she’s gained recently, gymnastics wasn’t always fun and games for Ohashi. “There was a time where I was on top of the world, an Olympic hopeful. I was unbeatable,” she said in a video released by The Players Tribune last August. “Until I wasn’t.”

In the emotional video, Ohashi reminisced about her early gymnastics days (she even competed against Olympic superstar Simone Biles) and the struggles she faced trying to keep up with the sport’s rules. “She wanted to eat junk food and feel okay the next day and not have to worry about getting kicked out because she couldn’t make a skill,” a voice says in the video. “That meant constantly exercising after a meal just to feel good enough to go to bed.”

Despite her rigorous training and dedication, Ohashi suffered a back injury that caused her to step down from competing at an elite level and compete at a collegiate level instead. “No one ever fully knew what I was going through and I never really could say or publicize what was wrong with me,” Ohashi said in the video. “I was happy to be injured. I was told that it was embarrassing how big I had become. I was compared to a bird that couldn’t fly.”

Ohashi admits that she “couldn’t accept” herself until she landed at UCLA and met UCLA Gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field.

“I think gymnastics can be a very brutal sport, but I don’t think it’s supposed to be a brutal sport,” she continued. “I just hope that in 10, 20 years, there will be people leaving the sport feeling untouched by it. At the end of the day, I think this should’ve been my path.”

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