By Katelyn Ohashi
The morning of January 12th, 2019, started off just like any other meet day. We traveled only about an hour out of LA to Anaheim for our second competition of the season. It was my senior year, and I took my time getting ready… curled my hair while listening to “Me” by Oshun to get in the zone.
A few things are etched in my memory. The beam vibrated from the loud music that echoed through the gym, little girls trickled in as their club meets ended and there was an energy that filled the grounds. I saved my split double layout for this meet because of the podium set-up. The equipment was bouncier and the landings a little softer. After a solid beam rotation, we headed to floor, our last rotation and also my favorite. I was nervous about my first pass but I kept telling myself I had prepared for this moment. The music turned on, and it was time to perform. I nailed the split double lay with a stick. My team was dancing along and I remember laughing when I clapped offbeat. The crowd was so loud and so silent all at the same time but my music overpowered just about every noise in the gym. It was like time stopped.
When I saluted the judges, I just remember feeling happy and proud, like any other solid routine. The scoreboard flashed 10, the audience cheered and my teammates went crazy. It was a cool moment for my first 10 of the season.
The meet wasn’t televised, so our amazing videographer Deanna Hong posted the footage of my routine on the bus ride home and let me tell you, no one was prepared for what was about to happen.
The next day, I was ice skating with a friend when my phone started blowing up. I quickly put it away without understanding what was happening until I got home later that day. My notifications were going crazy and my followers went up by about 50,000 when I hit refresh. Since that viral moment one year ago, my life has changed significantly and I’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way.
A lot of people didn’t realize that my Junior year routine went viral at a faster rate on facebook with 80 million views, before being taken down due to copyright issues. But everything is timing and I think in some weird way, the universe knew I wasn’t quite ready.
My senior year, I was thrown into the spotlight in the midst of season and school. I didn’t necessarily know it at the time, but I was ready. I had countless interviews, trained every day, went to class and competed every weekend. My energy was pulled in so many directions and there were times I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I tried to journal but I wasn’t even sure how I felt about everything.
Then one day, I was sitting in Miss Val’s office when the realization hit me… like the first touch of cold ocean water at the beginning of summer. I began to cry when I took in how special these moments were with everyone around me. I became grateful for the entire situation and more importantly, grateful to be surrounded by my inner circle. Each and every one was there for me when I asked for help. I hadn’t always had that and in this moment, I understood how crucial that was. If and when I was having trouble powering through, they were always there and still are. This picture was taken the moment I walked out of the office, tears filling my eyes to celebrate with the people that were my canes, guiding and building me up.
The viral moment brought about so many incredible opportunities and experiences. I learned a lot about myself as I was quickly becoming accustomed to it all. One of the most important lessons of all that I learned this year… how to take ownership over your own life. Without embodying that this year would have never been possible.
A few adventures I embarked on this past year.
- I got the chance to be on Good Morning America and fly both of my parents out to New York for their first time.
- I freaking graduated! Haha
- I received two ESPYs this year and performed a very personal poem in front of the biggest audience to date!
- The ESPN Body Issue. I couldn’t wait for this to come out because of the messaging behind the photographs. The human body is one of the most beautiful pieces of art to me and to be able to take ownership of it without allowing anyone else to is why I really wanted to be a part of this. I also wanted to empower people around me to proudly wear and honor their “imperfections” and ultimately try to normalize our natural state, instead of hyper sexualize it.
- I got the chance to not only meet Lil Wayne but rap with him when I reached 1 million followers (all because I made the ask, as my coach Miss Val would say).
- Because of the platform gymnastics has given me, I’ve been able to connect with so many amazing people that have already impacted me so much within this last year.
- I’ve gotten the opportunity to travel all over the world for different, wonderful work opportunities! These journeys have also really helped me reflect on taking leaps of faith and doing things that feed my soul.
- I finally surrounded myself with a team who embodies my voice so authentically. Shoutout to my UCLA gymnastics family. They set the bar extremely high for what it means to have full support from amazing people.
- Lastly, this year has reminded me how incredibly grateful I am for my family, the most influential people in my life. Never take the people that accept 100% of your weirdness and sh*t for granted. Also Ryan, my oldest brother, is having a kid this March!
For this year and the rest of my life, I commit myself to living fearlessly, forgiving the places I faltered last year. I’m so excited to see what 2020 has to offer! Comment what your commitments are for the year!