Katelyn Ohashi Finally Finds Joy

“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. “ - Katelyn Ohashi

Video Source- UCLA

If you need some joy in your life and a bit of hope in the gymnastics community, you need not look further than Katelyn Ohashi’s viral floor routine from UCLA’s meet on January 12th. Ohashi was technically perfect, garnering a score of 10.0 but the routine was also infused with joy. Joy from Ohashi in her own physical movements and performance, and joy from her teammates who can be seen cheering and dancing on the sidelines in support. However, Ohashi hasn’t always been able to find this much joy in the sport of gymnastics.

               Before starting her collegiate career with the UCLA Bruins in 2015, Ohashi faced a multitude of injuries, complicating her transition from junior to senior competition.  At first it looked like she would dominate at elite competition, winning the 2013 American Cup, beating her U.S. teammate Simone Biles. The April after her American Cup win, Ohashi had shoulder surgery and ended up sitting out the rest of the year. The next year, in 2014, it was hopeful that she would be able to make a comeback but suffered a back injury that resulted in her being unable to compete until 2015. After this series of season-ending injuries Ohashi decided it would be best to take a step back from the elite level and drop down a level in competition.

               Successive physical injuries were not the only thing keeping Ohashi from realizing her elite dreams. She also found herself crushed by the pressure of high-level competition, the victim of body shaming, and on the edge of burnout. Realizing she could not continue her original path without too great a sacrifice, Ohashi joined the Bruins, and with the help of her teammate and coach, Valorie Kondos Field, she has found success and joy once more. Ohashi’s coach, Field, focuses on the process rather than the winning, prioritizing teamwork, respect for oneself and others, and integrity above personal success. An attitude that has allowed Ohashi to grow as a student and an athlete.

While Ohashi hasn’t been without challenges during her collegiate carrier, as she suffered a sternal fracture her first year at UCLA and was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2016. Despite this, the environment of self-improvement and support at UCLA has seen Ohashi return to a top competitive position, having achieved a perfect score six times in the last three years, and winning the National Championship with the Bruins in 2018. Ohashi’s story shows us that self-care, respect, and the pursuit of personal happiness are essential in finding the type of joy and satisfaction in sport that is not measured in medals.

Anya Alvarez