Before an ebullient floor routine went viral, before gymnastics fans and non-followers alike watched with smiles as she performed at the 2019 Collegiate Challenge, before a video of the routine garnered more than five million views on YouTube, and before she was an NCAA champion, Katelyn Ohashi was an injured gymnast who wondered if she would ever compete again.
Ohashi, now a senior at UCLA, received a perfect 10 this past weekend at the Collegiate Challenge for her personality-packed floor routine, helping the Bruins best three other teams (Cal, Michigan State and UC Davis) to win the event.
The 21-year-old was once a rising star in elite gymnastics. In 2011, she was the U.S. junior champion in the all-around, uneven bars, balance beam and floor. She won the 2013 American Cup, an early-season international meet, topping another gymnast who was then an up-and-coming standout: Simone Biles.
But privately, Ohashi was struggling, both with her body image and the physical pain that came with injuries. In a video published by the Player’s Tribune in August 2018, she says, “That girl you’d think would have it all, all these medals in her room…fans would tell her that she wasn’t good enough, [that] she didn’t look a certain way…I was broken.”
After dealing with serious back and shoulder injuries, Ohashi stepped away from elite competition. Doctors told her she might never return to gymnastics, and “I kind of hit rock bottom where I didn’t think I was going to be able to,” Ohashi said in an interview with FloGymnastics in 2014. She credited her then-coaches, Laurent and Cecile Landi (who now coach Biles), for helping to bring her back. “Laurent and Cecile kind of pulled me out what I was going through and helped me through everything,” she told FloGymnastics at the time.
Ohashi set her sights on competing collegiately, and in early 2015, committed to UCLA. Last season, she helped the Bruins to an NCAA team title, and was the co-champion on floor.
Her floor score last weekend was the sixth perfect 10 Ohashi has earned in her collegiate career (four on floor, two on beam). In finding her way back to gymnastics as part of a college team, Ohashi told the Player’s Tribune, “I found my joy, my voice, myself, my love for the sport.”