LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — UCLA gymnastics star Katelyn Ohashi is a veteran when it comes to her sport, but being an Internet sensation – that still takes some getting used to.
“I’ve been doing it for a really long time. It just so happens that people have overnight started to realize it,” Ohashi, 21 said.
Videos of Ohashi performing her floor routine have spread online like wildfire, not once, but twice — most recently after she scored a perfect 10 at the Collegiate Challenge in Anaheim almost two weeks ago. Her newfound popularity could be why UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion was recently packed with 10,000 fans, a 50 percent bigger audience than usual, as the women’s gymnastics team took on Arizona State.
Ohashi’s performances mix music and dance moves from Michael and Janet Jackson, Tina Turner, Earth Wind & Fire, and the Jackson 5 with difficult tumbles, splits and passes executed flawlessly – all with a radiant smile.
But it wasn’t always this way.
Ohashi started gymnastics at three years old and made the national team at 12. But by the time she was old enough to compete in the Olympics – she no longer wanted to be “great.”
“Because when I had been great, I lost so much joy and so much of myself in the process that I associated greatness with misery,” she said.
Like many elite gymnasts, Ohashi says she went through body shaming and her self-image plummeted.
“I think it’s something you realize you can’t escape when you have a platform, and you have people looking at you , and…family members and coaches that are really strict on your weight,” she said.
Ohashi did leave gymnastics, but was coaxed back in by UCLA Gymnastics Coach Val Kondos.
“Coming back was extremely hard,” Ohashi said haltingly. “But, like, I think every second has been worth it and I think everything that I’ve went through has only set me up for what I’ve been able to achieve and the type of joy I’ve gotten from it now.
“I’m so happy that I’ve stayed in it long enough to get on this side of it.”