"I am my own size and no words or stares will make me compromise"
January 23, 2019 7:58 PM   Subscribe

"As much as you love a sport, I don’t think love and joy necessarily go hand in hand. I think you can still be in love with the sport but just not happy in it.” After enduring excruciating physical injuries and a toxic culture of body-shaming in elite gymnastics, Katelyn Ohashi eventually found her way to collegiate gymnastics, where she came to rediscover the joy of the sport--along with a passion for writing and activism. Ohashi shared her story with the LA Times. Stay for the video of Ohashi's recent perfect-10 floor routine at the Collegiate Challenge; her playfulness and joy are infectious.
posted by duffell (30 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
The thing I love most about that video and the reason I made a bunch of coworkers watch it is the absolute delight of her teammates, who do some of her moves on the sidelines and appear to me to be thrilled for her, not merely because she is gaining points for the team but because (I infer) they take so much joy in her mastery. That level of unadulterated happiness in the performance of someone who is in many ways a competitor is a rare and beautiful thing.
posted by janey47 at 8:08 PM on January 23, 2019 [25 favorites]

That performance is so over-the-top, it nearly looks like it was created with CGI. I have never in my over 50 years of life seen a human body do anything like that before, and I've seen more than one Cirque du Soleil show!

The amount of sheer joy she exudes during the routine is nearly a power source.

This is awesome and amazing! Thanks so much for posting it!
posted by hippybear at 8:17 PM on January 23, 2019 [8 favorites]

What a fucking CHAMP

I needed to see something like this tonight, thank you so much for sharing

Also can I just say her legs are amazing and she just exudes so much charisma that it almost isn't fair
posted by Hermione Granger at 8:23 PM on January 23, 2019 [8 favorites]

I also noticed the teammates right away. Non-“revenue” college sports still have a lot of enthusiasm and joy in them, but this kind if fellowship and support was awesome to see. I wish I could do something for all of those kids!
posted by wenestvedt at 8:26 PM on January 23, 2019 [10 favorites]

I'm glad to see one gymnast in recovery. Also, watching her is a delight.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:53 PM on January 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

it's like someone turned off gravity when she gets going
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 10:42 PM on January 23, 2019 [4 favorites]

I watched the video about 10 times in a row when it was first going around; it is so fun to see someone with muscle and power do something with such obvious joy and competence. Bodies are neat. I liked this little Slate article about the difference between elite and collegiate gymnastics and the UCLA program in particular, with links to a couple other fun collegiate routines.
posted by charmedimsure at 12:06 AM on January 24, 2019 [7 favorites]

This is the video of Katelyn Ohashi's routine referred to in the article - it didn't seem to be linked there for some reason.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:31 AM on January 24, 2019 [4 favorites]

What a great back story. I loved that video when I first saw it and watched it every time it came up on my timeline(s).
posted by h00py at 4:10 AM on January 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

I was also struck by the teammates' obvious joy and love for her.
posted by signal at 4:28 AM on January 24, 2019 [4 favorites]

I think she says at the end of the video "people were having so much fun"

Nailed that, too!
posted by chavenet at 5:06 AM on January 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

EndsOfInvention, it's linked in the article via an embedded video tweet from UCLA. Thanks for linking to it directly, in case it's not showing up in some browsers!

By the way, if folks are looking for more from Ohashi, the article alluded to her 2018 NCAA floor routine: here it is, complete with finger-guns and moonwalking.
posted by duffell at 5:45 AM on January 24, 2019 [4 favorites]

I was really interested in the discussion on Slate's What Next podcast about this, and why it's not unusual for NCAA and UCLA. It's not a world I have any context for, but I love watching Katelyn Ohashi perform so much.
posted by carbide at 6:27 AM on January 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Well, as an Australian commentator said: She sparks more joy than Marie Kondo.
posted by dominik at 6:35 AM on January 24, 2019 [8 favorites]

This is what gymnastics is? I’ve been missing out!
posted by Sterros at 6:46 AM on January 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

duffell: Ah, wasn't showing up for me at all (I can usually see embedded tweets OK).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:16 AM on January 24, 2019

The 2013 American cup floor routine linked to in the Slate article is a huge contrast. The announcer even says right at the start that Ohashi shared with her "I like this routine because I even get to smile a little." Good for her for rediscovering her joy.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:16 AM on January 24, 2019

There's such a difference between women's collegiate gymnastics and Olympic gymnastics. The years to mature, and to gain both physical and mental strength, really show.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:46 AM on January 24, 2019 [3 favorites]

When you're young and first in gymnastics, this is what it's like. You learn to fly on the vault and floor; you learn to enjoy your body and its power. It's awesome. Unfortunately, if you're small and good and fit the idea of an Olympic gymnast, you lose that joy pretty quickly.
I was lucky; I was good, but too tall already at 7. So I got to compete at the local and state level, but nothing was really expected of me. I could fly and play and bounce and enjoy myself, but no one ever considered me a contender.

Katelyn reminds me of my 9-year-old self, and I love her for it. May we all find our joy in what we do.
posted by teleri025 at 8:02 AM on January 24, 2019 [17 favorites]

There's such a difference between women's collegiate gymnastics and Olympic gymnastics.

No kidding. I can't watch Olympics gymnastics because of the ridiculous levels of pressure on these young women to be absolutely perfect, even before the recent scandal over the US team doctor.

But a few weeks ago my lovely wife and I were out for First Friday, and the microbrewery had its TVs tuned to a gymnastics competition -- I believe UCLA was among them -- and though I was prepared to be discomfited, to my astonishment, they looked like they were having fun. There were rounds of high-fives among teammates and even competitors after every routine, successful or otherwise. Watching them was actually a pleasure, quite aside from the amazement over the strength and grace the human body can achieve.
posted by Gelatin at 8:03 AM on January 24, 2019 [9 favorites]

I think it's the happiness and support of her teammates that make me cry even more than her routine. Maybe it's the combination.

I don't know gymnastics. Is that the standard way to do music, just a few seconds from each song? It's jarring to me.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:54 AM on January 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

Yes, I really liked the routine, but the constant changes in music were disruptive for me.
posted by tavella at 8:57 AM on January 24, 2019

Ok, I never got around to watching the video until just now because, gymnastics...meh...

But reading about her body image struggles, injuries, her poetry, plans for activism, working with DV survivors...then I watched the video of her routine.

Wow. What a fucking hero. More people like this, please.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:21 AM on January 24, 2019 [9 favorites]

I only saw this with a goofy Aussie commentary. Still, great!
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 9:22 AM on January 24, 2019

my husband was detoxing off wellbutrin and this video made him cry. but when i watched it as well we realized it wasn't his brain chemicals, it was just this video and her total joy that really made us cry

i wish i could find a new sport or activity that makes me *that* happy to do - they look like they're having such a great time!!
posted by zdravo at 10:14 AM on January 24, 2019 [7 favorites]

I love that the teammates know their routines so well, and do the moves along with them on the sidelines.
posted by suelac at 12:28 PM on January 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

Good lord, her legs must be made of spring steel! I've probably never watched any gymnastics ever, so maybe my perception is off, but I thought that was impressive as hell.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:56 PM on January 24, 2019

I had no idea college gymnastics was a thing, and the comparison has been fascinating:

How Elite Gymnasts Affect Collegiate Gymnastics

A Different Kind of Gymnastics (comparison of collegiate and Olympic gymnastics)

It's deeply weird to think that at 21 or whatever, and still capable of that, Ohashi is already over the hill.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 8:02 PM on January 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

I love seeing people discover NCAA gymnastics, it really is a different world to elite (and so much less fraught in a lot of ways). Team-mates dancing along with a floor routine is the norm and is wildly delightful every time.

There's still the same intensity, but unlike international elite gymnastics, it's often intense happiness and fun. It's just a good damn time.
posted by pseudonymph at 11:39 PM on January 24, 2019 [3 favorites]

I watch this video every day! Her joy is just so contagious!
posted by MissySedai at 5:36 PM on January 26, 2019

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