The Heartbreaking Story Behind Why UCLA Gymnast in Viral Video Isn't Vying for Spot on Olympic Team
Over the weekend, UCLA Bruins gymnast Katelyn Ohashi's literally perfect routine captured the heart of the internet. But the attention was far from new for the 21-year-old senior, who has been on the gymnastics circuit for most of her life
Over the weekend, UCLA Bruins gymnast Katelyn Ohashi’s literally perfect routine captured the heart of the internet. But the attention was far from new for the 21-year-old senior, who has been on the gymnastics circuit for most of her life.
Ohashi — who helped the Bruins to victory at the Under Armour Collegiate Challenge with a 10 score for her floor routine last Saturday — began gymnastics at only age 3, she told Lenny Letter in July 2018.
Though from Seattle, Ohashi’s family recognized the then-young athlete was poised for greatness and moved her to Missouri at age 9 to train at the Great American Gymnastics Experience, according to Lenny Letter.
Four years later, Ohashi competed at her first elite nationals when she was 12, the outlet reported, and placed 10th. It was after this victory that Ohashi moved to Texas and attended the World Gymnastics Academy — which Lenny Letter notes was also the training site for Olympic gold medalists including Carly Patterson and Madison Kocian.
Ohashi competed with USA Gymnastics’ junior national team for four years, the Washington Post reported, but missed the age eligibility for the 2012 Summer Olympics. Still, her dominance was obvious. According to the outlet, back in 2013 she won the American Cup over then-teammate Simone Biles.
Despite the crowning achievement, Ohashi has said she was broken — mentally and physically.
“By 2012, I probably had like three stress reactions in my back,” she told Lenny Letter. “Two stress fractures in my fibula. My back is permanently messed up. I’ve had two shoulder surgeries.”
The injuries, coupled with constant criticism from fans over her capabilities and body, weighed on Ohashi, she explained in an emotional video for The Players’ Tribune last summer.
“There was a time where I was on top of the world, an Olympic hopeful,” Ohashi narrated the video, adding, “I was unbeatable, until I wasn’t.”
“I was broken,” she said in the clip, adding, “Gymnastics was my worth, it was my life. I hated myself.”
In 2014, Ohashi underwent back surgery, she told Lenny Letter, realizing that her chances of competing again were in jeopardy.
“No one ever fully knew what I was going through, and I never really could say, or publicize what was wrong with me,” she admitted. “I was happy to be injured.”
It was then, Ohashi has said, that she opted to stop pursuing elite gymnastics and a spot on the Olympic women’s team. She instead channeled her energy into college gymnastics, joining the UCLA Bruins gymnastics team for the 2015–16 season.
“Having a different goal and path to follow to finally find joy and love within the sport again,” she told the Player’s Tribune.
She added, “That’s all it took to feel like a person again.”