Katelyn Ohashi Was the Best Gymnast in the World, Until She Wasn’t | The Players' Tribune

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    UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi talks about why she decided to quit the elite gymnastics circuit in order to go to college. The 2018 NCAA gymnastics champ shares her struggles with injuries, self image issues, and happiness while competing full-time. Ohashi talks about the influence her coach, UCLA's Miss Val, has had on her rediscovering her love for the sport.

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    - And this is Katelyn Ohashi, impressive to say the least. - There was a time where I was on top of the world, an Olympic hopeful. - Simone Biles. - She will not be the American Cup champion. - Katelyn Ohashi wins it. - I was unbeatable. Until I wasn't. - Good arms, tight body. - I want to do bars there. Too high? Please. This girl's joy is just being present. She just keeps going and going like nothing's stopping her. Living day by day and enjoying every second of it. Flipping and flipping and even at a young age, even when she didn't have gymnastics, she was still in the gym. Gymnastics was her world. - Katelyn Ohashi of WOGA on floor exercise. - That girl that you would think had it all, all these medals in her room, podiums she's standing on, she thought she had nothing. - Well here's young Katelyn Ohashi. - Double-pike dismount here. - Pretty solid routine. - Yeah, still going to get a very good score, but she can be actually much better. - Fans would tell her that she wasn't good enough. She didn't look a certain way. She wanted to eat junk food and feel O.K. the next day and not have to worry about getting kicked out because she couldn't make a scale. Then constantly exercising after a meal just to feel good enough to go to bed. She was on this path of almost invincibility. And then her back just gave out. She wanted to experience what it was like to be a kid again. - Katelyn, smile. - I was broken. No one ever fully knew what I was going through. And I never really could say or publicize what was wrong with me. I was happy to be injured. I was told that it was embarrassing how big I'd become. I was compared to a bird that couldn't fly. These are all things I heard before I'd even got injured, things that when I was skinny I was told, so what would they think of me when I had become big. I couldn't accept myself. Gymnastics was my worth. It was my life. I hated myself. It took me finding Miss Val and UCLA and having a different goal and path to follow to finally find joy and love within the sport again. - What is that? - Togetherness. - This is what? Togetherness, the bond, the fibers of the trampoline. This is Bruin family, right? And what happens with Bruin family? We trust each other, right? It's about trust. It's about enthusiasm. It's about passion for everything we do. It's about the fact that we're all very unique, and we all bring different things to this fiber, right? - I look up to my coach so much. My Mom wasn't exactly happy when I quit elite gymnastics and wanted to go to college. Miss Val asked her why she had like a change in her heart, and she said, "I see how happy my daughter is." - No ducky. - And that's all it took to really ... to feel like a person again. - Let's go Kate. - Get it, Kate! - I think gymnastics can be a very brutal sport, but I don't think it's supposed to be a brutal sport. I just hope that in 10, 20 years there will be people leaving the sport feeling untouched by it. At the end of the day I think, this should've been my path. I haven't been able to feel this type of happiness in a long time. I found my joy, my voice, myself, and my love for the sport. It's not the outcome. It's not me standing on a podium with medals. It's me being able to walk out with a smile on my face and truly being like happy with myself, and that comes first.
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