From the first clap over her head to the tune of The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” that followed two electrifying tumbling passes, those fortunate enough to be inside Anaheim Arena on Jan. 12 knew Katelyn Ohashi was about to become a national sensation.
By now you’ve probably seen the video of the viral floor routine from the UCLA gymnast who channeled Tina Turner while jamming to other musical icons on her way to a perfect 10.0 at the Collegiate Challenge. It seemed to touch the Twitter timeline of every user imaginable. It has been viewed nearly 35 million times as of Tuesday afternoon and another 3.5 million times on Youtube.
Since that video surfaced, Ohashi’s story has been shared by some of the biggest news outlets in America — including the Washington Post, CNN, CBS, NBC and ABC — and she has become as popular as Olympic gold medalists Simone Biles or Gabby Douglas overnight.
But there are a few things you might not know about Ohashi or UCLA gymnastics. Here are five things you should know from the latest viral sensation.
1. Ohashi was an Olympic hopeful and nearly walked away from gymnastics
The first time Ohashi was really known nationally was when she beat Biles, an eventual four-time Olympic champion, in the 2013 American Cup. Ohashi spent four years with the USA Gymnastics’ junior national team and seemed destined to make it to the Olympics.
She was too young to go to Rio in 2016, but 2020 was a real possibility. However, she wasn’t enjoying the sport anymore.
In a video produced by The Players’ Tribune, Ohashi self-narrates what she was feeling over footage of her absent a smile throughout multiple competitions. She describes being told she wasn’t good enough by fans, exercising after a meal “just to feel good enough to go to bed” so she could do a skill the next day.
“I was unbeatable — until I wasn’t,” she says. “I was broken.”
She had been competing through a fractured back and two torn shoulders. It was then she decided to stop competing in elite gymnastics and pursue a college career.
Ohashi found happiness again at UCLA with her coach Valorie Kondos Field, who everyone calls “Miss Val.” Now, Ohashi is arguably the best collegiate gymnast and clearly still has the talent to be an Olympian. Her story is one worth listening to.
2. This isn’t the first time UCLA gymnastics (or Ohashi) went viral
UCLA gymnastics has had some incredibly creative routines with a heavy hand of difficulty, nostalgia and infectious joy. See Ohashi’s latest masterpiece for all three ingredients.
But her routines were well known by some before Saturday’s ebullient edition. At the Pac-12 championships last year, Ohashi claimed the floor exercise title in a routine that featured Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”, his signature moonwalk and more of his classics.
It was more than 4 million views on Youtube.
In 2016, Sophina DeJesus also burst through the filter bubble with a floor routine that featured the Whip, Nae-Nae and Dab combined with some smooth hip-hop dance moves which eventually put her The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Immediately following her, Angi Cipra’s iPhone-themed routine also attracted hundreds of thousands of viewers.
3. This isn’t Ohashi’s first perfect 10
If you need more proof Ohashi is one of the best in world, consider that the 21-year-old senior has had not one, but six perfect 10s that span two events. Ohashi has four perfect scores on floor exercise and two on beam.
Here are a few more of her accolades before she adds even more this year:
- 2018 NCAA team champion
- 2018 NCAA co-champion on floor
- 2018 Pac-12 co-champion on floor
- Six-time All-American
4. Ohashi’s routine is full of ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s nostalgia
When watching Ohashi, her passion and joy for competing that is shown in her smile permeates through the screen and is further amplified by a funky blend of Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary,” Earth Wind and Fire’s “September,” Prince's "Kiss" and The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.”
To follow that up, let’s go with a little “Rhythm Nation” by Janet Jackson and end with Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” and "Thriller." Ohashi might have created the best playlist ever.
As impossible to execute as this routine looks to the average person, it’s probably more onerous to find someone who doesn’t crack a smile watching this routine while tapping to the beats.
MORE: Championship history
5. UCLA coach Valorie Kondos Field is more than a legendary gymnastics coach
Kondos Field has more than earned the right to go down as one of the greatest NCAA gymnastics coaches of all-time when she retires at the end of this season. In her 29th season, “Miss Val” has won seven NCAA championships, four national coach of the year awards and 18 Pac-12 championships and 22 regional championships as a head coach and assistant coach.
But what some might not know about her is she is a former ballet dancer — which explains the intoxicatingly fun floor routines. She also has conceptualized a Urban Nutcracker, the sequel to gymnastics movie “Full Out,” and published a self-help book in October titled, Life is Short: Don’t Wait to Dance, according to the Associated Press.
Kondos Field decided to retire two years ago but told very few people. One of those people in the close group was Ohashi.
And just to add one more thing about Ohashi: There’s no doubt she appears to be having fun with all the deserved attention.