Katelyn Ohashi more at peace after UCLA gymnastics career

The moments of joy are now easier. Katelyn Ohashi doesn’t find her in a perfectly stuck landing or the roar of a crowd for a flawless routine, but in a quieter existence.

Three years after the viral sensation and the all-American gymnast graduating from UCLA, life with beloved cats Bonnie, Clyde and Silky was dawning. Life became a board under her feet instead of a mat, she took up skating, soaking up the Venetian sun while cruising along the beach.

She hasn’t lost the beaming smile that punctuated viral UCLA routines. This joy was real too. But the split has helped Ohashi feel freer from a tearful past.

“When I did gymnastics, I felt like your whole identity is being wrapped up in what you’re doing,” Ohashi told the Times. “Every athlete goes through a phase where it feels like it’s their sport.”

And stepping back, finding herself, has allowed Ohashi to accept everything — the pain, the person she was, the person she’s become.

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The routine with more than 44 million views of UCLA Gymnastics Twitter account occurs most frequently.

“Most people say, ‘Let me see that, let me see that.’ ‘ Ohashi mimicked with a grin.

She made eyes and hearts in January 2019 by crossing hand jumps with shimmies to R&B and pop music, a grin that shone the whole way on her way to a perfect 10.

But Ohashi, too, looks back to old footage of routines from her pre-college days at elite competitions. She looks angry, people tell her. Sad. She watches and feels herself wince in pain during those moments and struggles through physical injuries that were “more of a mental burnout,” Ohashi said during a panel at the LA 84 Play Equity Summit in Los Angeles on Tuesday.

Ohashi has frequently used her platform — now with more than a million Instagram followers — to explore the effects of body shaming she endured in her early years of competition. It’s strange for her to see this version of herself now, the one who broke down crying in the car after winning one of her biggest competitions.

“What’s wrong with you?” Ohashi remembered what her mother had said at the time. “You just won.”

UCLA's Katelyn Ohashi performs during an NCAA gymnastics meet.

UCLA’s Katelyn Ohashi performs during an NCAA gymnastics meet January 4, 2019 in Los Angeles.

(Ben Liebenberg/Associated Press)

A month after a 16-year-old Ohashi won the 2013 American Cup, she underwent shoulder surgery and began a recovery process that lasted two years. During that time, her first step away from competition, she had to learn to look in the mirror and accept herself for who she was, she said.

When asked what had changed since then, she sighed.

“I would tell my younger self to stand up for myself more,” she told the Times. “I think that’s something I’m still learning. Like how I even know what I’m feeling when I’m feeling it and how I’m able to say it.”

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Gymnastics isn’t quite gone for Ohashi yet.

In 2021, Ohashi performed on Simone Biles’ Gold Over America tour. It gave her a chance to flip the switch back to being a cast member — and she found she missed it.

“When I come back I’m like, ‘Oh man…I fell in love with this in gymnastics,'” Ohashi said.

But she also focuses on other ventures. During the pandemic, Ohashi often turned to poetry. Every week, she and her friends met via Zoom to exchange texts.

Her biggest project is an animated short she wrote from her poetry, a planned six to 10 minute film that Ohashi is trying to raise funds for. The project she plans to lead will focus on her life, gymnastics, mental health, body image and family dynamics.

“Hopefully that’s what drives me – more than an athlete,” Ohashi said.

Gymnastics, she accepted, is not eternal.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/ucla/story/2022-06-30/katelyn-ohashi-ucla-gymnastics Katelyn Ohashi more at peace after UCLA gymnastics career

Emma Bowman

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