UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi, who became an internet sensation after footage of her floor routine became viral earlier this year, has shared her emotional journey from top-level sport to university-level competition.
Writing a personal essay for NBC News, the 22-year-old athlete from Seattle, Washington, said that her journey as a gymnast was not an easy one because she revealed that she loved the sport and caught herself & # 39; caught & # 39; felt through the intense pressure that came with it.
Katelyn, who was once hopeful at the Olympics, said the pressure from demanding coaches made her feel & # 39; brainwashed & # 39; while she said: & # 39; My voice was so suppressed that sometimes I couldn't even hear it. & # 39;
Journey: UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi has revealed that competing at the elitist level has scared her for success and & # 39; greatness & # 39; to reach while she associated it with pain
Experience: the 22-year-old, recently pictured, said she loved the sport until she was 12 years old when she entered the world of elite gymnastics
Katelyn hovered to fame after a clip in which she performed an impeccable routine went to a Micheal Jackson medley in January.
The video, which has been viewed more than 38 million times, saw the gymnast perfectly perform some extremely difficult movements while performing a series with high energy.
Since then she has performed the routine during various competitions, but she has removed Jackson & # 39; s music and a number of moves inspired by the deceased pop artist who continued the allegations of sexual abuse in the HBO documentary, Leaving Neverland.
Memories: Katelyn, pictured in 2012, said that the demanding nature of the top sports center became too much for both her physical and mental health, and she felt burned out.
The 22-year-old, who performed her last routine as a student on Saturday, April 20, started gymnastics when she was about two years old.
She said she loved the sport at a young age and that she would get excited if her parents told her she was going to the gym.
When she was twelve, Katelyn entered the world of elite gymnastics. The gymnast said this was when her relationship with the sport began to change because the demanding pressure from the industry became too much for her physical and mental health.
She wrote: & # 39; I said that gymnastics can be coarse and brutal. That was my experience. I felt trapped in a world where people in authority dictated my future. & # 39;
She added: & # 39; As an athlete you learn to keep pushing through the pain until the pain eventually becomes unbearable. Even then you are told to continue.
& # 39; I learned at a young age that my voice was not wanted or heard, so I went silent. I did what I was told and set goals based on what everyone expected from me. This may sound shocking, but I never dreamed of going to the Olympics.
& # 39; It was just something people expected from me. My voice was so suppressed that sometimes I couldn't even hear it. I felt brainwashed. The normal of everyone else became my reality and I set off for a physical and mental burnout, & she explained.
Despite being physically and mentally exhausted, Katleyn remained strong and drove through the pain.
She won several major competitions, including the 2011 Visa Championships, the Pacific Rims 2012 and the American Cup 2013, a senior elite competition. But despite her successes, Katelyn was not happy.
Fight: & # 39; I learned at a young age that my voice was not wanted or heard, so I went silent. I did what I was told and set goals based on what everyone expected from me, & said Katelyn
Difficult: after winning The American Cup in 2013, Katelyn came home from the event in tears after undergoing a back injury causing one of her vertebrae to protrude from her back & # 39;
Difficult: as seen on the Pacific Rims 2012, she was told that she might never be able to compete again due to the injury, which she said she wasn't even mad about
& # 39; I have a vivid picture of coming home in tears after that last game, & # 39; she said. & # 39; One of my vertebrates protruded from my backbone and I had an unbearable pain. I couldn't even touch my back without wrinkling.
& # 39; When I was barely 16, I was told that my back would never be the same again. My well-being was neglected because of the chance to win a gold medal.
After having sustained her back injury, Katelyn said she was told that maybe she could never compete again, which she said she wasn't even upset about.
Changes: recently pictured, Katelyn took a year off, during which time she focused on healing her injury before returning to gymnastics at a university level instead of aiming for the Olympics
Instead, she said she was relieved when she said that her & # 39; self-doubt, anxiety, and stress & # 39; went away.
It was two years later when Katelyn realized how much she had trusted the sport for & # 39; validation & # 39 ;, she said. She added: & # 39; When I left the sport, I was left with someone I didn't even know.
& # 39; All I knew was that I didn't like who I was. & # 39;
A year later, after attending many different doctor's appointments, Katelyn was allowed to go to the rehab for her injury and start training again.
At this point, Katelyn said she was starting to miss the sport, but her body could no longer cope with & # 39; the impact of the elitist world & # 39 ;. As a result, she decided to continue her gymnastics career, but she chose to compete at college level instead of aiming for the Olympics.
She chose to go to UCLA, and she knew the university had a well-known gymnastics program.
Katelyn said she called university theater coach Valorie Kondos Field, who retired on Saturday, April 20, to get more information about the program.
& # 39; She asked me about the last time I was happy in gymnastics, & # 39; Katelyn said about their phone call. & # 39; I told her it was when I was 11 before I entered the elitist world. We talked for more than an hour and by the time we hung up I knew she cared for me, not just my skills. & # 39;
Bond: Katelyn credits the UCLA gymnastic coach Valorie Kondos Field (R) and her teammates for helping to fall in love again with the sport
Inspiration: Speaking of Valorie, who retired from her position as team coach on Saturday, April 20, Katelyn said: & # 39; Miss Val places man in front of the athlete. & # 39;
When she returned to gymnastics, this time as a gymnast at level ten, she said it took some time to & # 39; negative voices & # 39; to get out of her head.
She said: & # 39; During my freshman year, it became unmistakably clear that I didn't want to be great again. I correlated greatness with misery.
& # 39; But I now realize that greatness was not the problem. It was the culture and environment that seemed to go together with being great, & she added.
Future: Katelyn graduated from UCLA in June with a major in gender studies and plans to complete an internship at The Players & Tribune
Katelyn said her UCLA coach and teammates helped her reconnect with happiness, as she emphasized the positive impact her coach, Miss Val, had on her life.
She said: & # 39; Miss Val places man in front of the athlete. & # 39;
& # 39; I was encouraged to use my voice and explore my passions outside of the sport. And when I did that, I was finally able to realize my true self-worth. I was more than a gymnast, & she added.
She said the realization that she was more than a gymnast helped her career to flourish, and the pressure to & # 39; perfect & # 39; to be taken away because she knew that the sport no longer defined her as a person.
& # 39; I found my joy. And that joy has already given me success in the world, & she said.
Katelyn also revealed that despite the negative experiences she had with her gymnastics career, she said the sport itself is not cruel, but rather the culture.
She explained: The truth is that gymnastics is a wonderful sport that has allowed me to grow and learn invaluable lessons in life: sacrifice, dedication, discipline. It eventually led me to my voice. & # 39;
According to The Star, the gymnast must graduate from UCLA with a major in gender studies in June, and plans to do an internship at The Players & Tribune – a media platform that offers content written by professional athletes.
Momentous: The gymnast played as a student for the last time on Saturday, April 20, where she scored a 9.5 and UCLA finished overall in third place
Happy: Katelyn, who saw her now famous routine, hovered to fame when her incredible floor show became viral in January. The video has reached more than 30 million views
It is not the first time that Katelyn has spoken openly about the dark aspects of gymnastics.
In August 2018, the athlete opened for The Players Tribune about how the elite level of her sport broke her & # 39; showed – and how a college athlete could help her find happiness again.
Katelyn said about herself at the core of the clip: & Even if she had no gymnastics, she was still in the gym. Gymnastics was her world.
& # 39; That girl that you would think had it all, all those medals in her room, podiums on which she stands … She thought she had nothing. & # 39;
Although they have a sense of & # 39; almost invincibility & # 39; Katelyn stated that she was struggling with body image problems.
She said: & # 39; Fans would tell her she wasn't good enough. She didn't seem in a certain way.
& # 39; She wanted to eat junk food and felt good the next day and didn't have to worry about kicking her out because she couldn't make a balance and then constantly training after a meal to feel good enough to go to bed & # 39;
The video clip showed that the pressure from the industry became too much for the now 21-year-old.
And after she had a broken back and tore both shoulders, the athlete decided to refrain from top-level gymnastics and to compete at a university level instead.
The gymnast said: & # 39; It was necessary to find Miss Val and UCLA and follow another goal and path to finally find joy and love again in the sport. & # 39;