The floor routine that earned UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi a perfect score at this year’s Collegiate Challenge has gone viral, thanks in part to her athletic ability, but also for — what has now become — her signature Michael Jackson moves.
The 21-year-old, two-time All American from Seattle dazzled judges last year with her MJ-inspired routine at the Pac-12 Championships, where she received a 9.95. This year, she opted for a musical medley along with a little more pep in her step, which likely earned her that perfect 10 — the fourth one in her floor career.
Here’s Katelyn’s latest routine:
Here’s Katelyn channelling her inner Michael Jackson last year:
But those viral videos don’t come without a price. According to a 2018 Lenny Letter article, the young gymnast was broken by the sport:
In 2017, Ohashi started posting diary entries from her competing days in an effort to start a conversation around body image surrounding the sport. “I’m used to waking up to the taste of blood or iron in my mouth, as if I might almost throw up from being so hungry,” she wrote in June 2010, at age thirteen. “I am completely and utterly in disgust with myself,” she wrote in November 2013, at age sixteen. “By 2012, I probably had like three stress reactions in my back,” she tells me today. “Two stress fractures in my fibula. My back is permanently messed up. I’ve had two shoulder surgeries.”
Ohashi described the culture of elite gymnastics as “abusive, restricting.” She underwent shoulder and back surgery in 2014, leaving her unsure of her future in competition. Reads Lenny Letter:
So she called up Valorie Kondos Field (known as Miss Val), the head coach at UCLA, one of the most popular collegiate gymnastics programs. Field, a former dancer, had no prior experience in gymnastics before being hired by the UCLA team in 1983. She is known for her refreshing approach to the sport, championing individualism and enjoyment over titles, and encouraging gymnasts to treat the beam and floor as a stage.
Said Ohashi, “I’ve discovered things from being severely injured, to having gymnastics being taken away from me, and I realized this isn’t forever. When I was in elite, [I was] living in black and white, whereas now I feel like I live more in full color.”