UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi turned to the crowd with a huge smile. Not only was she about to receive a perfect 10 for a spectacular floor exercise routine destined to break the Internet, but it was impossible not to notice that she was having the time of her life.
The video of her Jan. 13 routine at the 2019 Collegiate Challenge in Anaheim, California, had been viewed more than 39 million times as of Friday. Ohashi, 21, appeared on Good Morning America Thursday and talked about her battle back from injury, a long history of being body-shamed and her love for gymnastics.
High school gymnasts on Long Island, especially the top floor specialists, watched the video again and again. They share her love for the sport and they love Ohashi, too.
Long Beach sophomore Allison Cohen, a member of the varsity team since seventh grade, owns the highest score on floor in Nassau so far this season with a 9.45.
“I’ve loved Katelyn since before she joined UCLA,” Cohen said. “She’s always been an amazing gymnast. Every time I watch the video, and I’ve watched it a billion times, it makes me smile. I see how passionate she is and it reminds me how fun gymnastics can be and it motivates me to be better.”
In a video posted by The Players’ Tribune, Ohashi detailed how she went from being “unbeatable” to “broken.” At one point, she said, she was performing with a fractured back and tears in both shoulders. She eventually took a year off to heal and then came back like gangbusters.
Stefanie Carta, a sophomore at Port Washington, said Ohashi’s battle back from injury inspired her own comeback
“Two years ago, I was at an all-time low,” Carta said. “I had lost a few family members and I was distraught. I was mentally drained and felt like everyone was pushing me to do something I didn’t want to do. I took a break like Katelyn and it helped me make the decision to come back. I knew I couldn’t quit and I had to keep going because I love this sport.”
Her high score this season in floor exercise came against Long Beach, where she and Cohen tied for first place at 9.3
“I’ve wanted to go to UCLA since I started gymnastics,” Carta said. “Since Ohashi joined the team, it made me want to be on the team even more. It made me think, ‘Wow, if she can really do that then I can too.’ ”
Ohashi’s performance, highlighted by soaring stunts, radiated pure happiness. Bella Kelly, a sophomore from Babylon, was impressed by the glee emanating from Ohashi’s face.
“We all have to smile in gymnastics but she isn’t just smiling, she genuinely looks happy,” Kelly said. “She captivated the crowd with her smile and even people who aren’t into gymnastics wanted to watch the video. Gymnastics can be fun and she showed that.”
Kelly placed first on floor in the Suffolk state qualifiers in November with a 9.225. (Gymnastics is a fall sport in Suffolk and winter sport in Nassau.) She’ll be on the team representing Suffolk as a floor specialist. Carta and Cohen hope to compete against her as members of the Nassau team if they can advance through the Feb. 12 county qualifying meet at Oceanside High School. Cohen was on Nassau’s state team last year as an uneven bar specialist.
Maybe one will win the state crown.
“Shoot for the stars,” Carta said. “Really strive for everything you can be.”
Ohashi proved it could be done gleefully.
“If you’re not having fun,” Cohen said, “it’s not worth it.”