January 07, 2022 3 min read

Katelyn Ohashi broke the internet. This American former artistic gymnast went viral for her “perfect 10” floor routine featuring popular dance elements and a jaw-dropping drop split.

Soon, the incredible athlete was trending globally, inspiring gymnasts in more ways than one. Katelyn Ohashi taught a generation of gymnasts how to reach new heights while having fun and never losing sight of what matters most.

 

Born for the sport

When Katelyn Ohashi was born in Seattle, Washington, on April 12, 1997, her mother joked that she had already been doing cartwheels in the womb. She started training in gymnastics at the age of three, and was performing flawless back handsprings when she was just four years old.

In pursuit of the best gymnastics program, Katelyn and her family first moved to Kansas City and then to Plano, Texas. It was there that she started her winning streak. In 2011, she became Junior National Champion, and in 2013, she won the American Cup - beating out Olympic gold medalist, Simon Biles, with an extraordinarily difficult balance beam routine.

Although Ohashi’s performance at the American Cup was spectacular, she was in immense pain the entire time. Her coaches knew her back hurt, but they wanted her to push on.

Putting health first

Katelyn Ohashi reached her breaking point and decided to schedule an MRI. When the results came back, she discovered she had been competing with two torn shoulders and a fractured back. She was told she needed surgery, and that she might never do gymnastics again.

Her coaches insisted she keep competing with the help of physical therapy, so she could continue her road to the Olympics. Ohashi denied them. She knew no medal was worth the cost of her health. She chose to schedule the surgery.

The surgery took a major toll on Katelyn’s mental health. She was out of competition for over a year, and gained almost 30 pounds. During this time, she was forced to battle not only her injuries, but a slew of body shaming.

Ohashi knew Elite gymnastics wasn’t an option anymore - her body simply couldn’t handle the extreme demands of training. But she had heard good things about the head coach at UCLA, so she decided to begin her collegiate gymnastics career.

Through collegiate gymnastics, Katelyn rediscovered her love of the sport and healed her relationship with her body. With the pressure off, she absolutely thrived, and earned title after title at her competitions.

 

Ohashi goes viral

In her final year of college, Ohashi reached her peak. She set career highs for uneven bars, vault, and all-around and was named the PAC-12 specialist of the year. But her biggest achievement was in floor exercise.

At the 2018 PAC-12 Gymnastics Championships, Katelyn performed a dazzling Michael Jackson routine that earned her millions of views on the internet. Her infectious energy, amazing technique, and inclusion of fun elements from moonwalks to “thriller handclaps” made her an instant favorite with viewers around the globe.

Then, she outdid herself again. At the 2019 Collegiate Challenge, Katelyn Ohashi performed another knockout floor routine - considered one of the toughest routines of all time - and she made it look easy. The routine earned perfect tens, as well as over 100 million views on YouTube and 44 million views on Twitter.

 

A platform with a purpose

Katelyn Ohashi graduated with a degree in Gender Studies and went straight to work raising awareness for body shaming, domestic violence, mental health, and homelessness. She had been writing poetry with a friend about body positivity and empowerment for a few years, and now their blog, “Behind the Madness,” finally had a platform.

Katelyn speaks out openly about the pressure gymnasts face to look a certain way. She promotes body positivity, and volunteers her time with non-profit organizations that help others recover from disordered eating. Katelyn chose loving her body over fame, but fame found her anyway. Now, she is inspiring others to stand up for their health as well.



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