The whole show takes about half a minute. The twenty-one-year-old Katelyn Ohashi takes the floor at the Collegiate Challenge and helps her UCLA team beat three other schools with a gymnastics yellow routine that the judges score a perfect 10. The video went viral – it has had seven million views so far – not just because it is a flawless routine done to Michael Jackson and Tina Turner, but also because of the unmistakable gaze of joy on her face from the beginning to the end.
Does gymnastics really make Ohashi as happy as it looks? She says yes. "Performing is my favorite thing," she told The New York Times . "What you see is how I feel."
It wasn't always that way. Previously, Ohashi competed as an elite gymnast. In 201
She didn't even go. Instead, she fell out of the sport. It turned out that she had competed with a broken back and two cracked shoulders. And her psyche was even more damaged than her body was. "The girl you think had it all, all these medals in her room or the podium she's on? She felt she didn't have anything," says Ohashi in a self-explanatory video of the Players Tribune.
Despite being a champion gymnast, she fought with body images. "Fans wanted to tell her she wasn't good enough. She didn't look a certain way," says Ohashi in the video. "I was told it was embarrassing how big I would be." As she evolved through her teens, Ohashi grew out of the sylph-like youth appearance prevalent among elite gymnasts, who are mostly young. Soon she was "constantly exercised after a meal to feel good enough to go to bed," she says. In 2010, she wrote this in her diary: "I'm used to waking up to the taste of blood or iron in my mouth, as if I might almost throw away from being so hungry." She was 13.
In 2014, after winning the American Cup, Ohashi had surgery on her shoulder and then on her back. But she did not want to return to the elite gymnastics misery so she made the surprising choice to enroll in college and compete in the less prestigious world instead. Originally, her mother was unhappy, she says in the video, but changed when she saw how much happier her daughter was. Ohashi's head is sex studies that seem like a perfect fit, after all she endures as a teenage gymnast.
She helped the UCLA team to the NCAA championship last year, as well as this weekend's victory. And Ohashi, who looks serious and gloomy in her videos as an Olympic hope, now clearly has the time of her life.
So how do you define success? Compete while starving and miserable at the most honorable level of gymnastics, or being a happy competitor on a college team? Although she had not completed a viral video to show it, Ohashi made the right choice. It is especially true for gymnasts, but it is true for all of us that what we will quickly forget, no matter what we get from the many hours we spend on our careers. What is waste is to spend all these hours doing something that does not bring us joy.
"Shake the stupid taffy. Shoot the stupid taffy," she answers, sings and laughs and jumps together to the D4L song that plays in the background, a bit of pace as the interviewer notes.
"Where are you going, Kate?" The interviewer then asks as Ohashi heads to the door. "Class", she answers. "Being a student, then the athlete." Whether it's inside or outside the gym, I guess she's got quite a future ahead of her.
Ohashi and Kondos-Field appear on Good Morning America on January 17. ]