Katelyn Ohashi on Miss Val, UCLA gymnastics and the story behind that viral video
It’s hard to imagine: You go out ice skating with some friends and come home to 50,000 new followers on social media.
"It was kind of crazy because I didn’t realise it was happening." - Katelyn Ohashi on the Olympic Channel Podcast.
Olympic Channel: What was your reaction like when it started to take off?
Katelyn Ohashi: It was kind of crazy because I didn’t realise it was happening. I was ice skating and my phone kept going off… I went home and I had gone up 50k followers. And I was like, "This is weird".
People were sending me screenshots of famous people tweeting me or re-posting it. At first, it was a shock. I never thought that it would go to that level.
OC: How did you guys come up with that routine?
KO: It was a process. So, last year we wanted to do something more joyful - something more intricate with dancing and stuff like that... So, we had six people at the table coming up with the music. We started piecing things together and it finally worked out.
We had like two weeks before the season started or something – so I had to get the choreography quick. I was home and Miss Val was FaceTiming me like, "OK – right foot, right foot!"
OC: What’s been the hardest part of that routine?
KO: Just clapping on beat. It’s like the worst thing for me. For some reason, I can never get the (claps) on perfect timing.
Reaction and change
OC: Why do you think people have connected with it?
KO: I think joy has probably the biggest part to do with it. And the fact that gymnastics has been in this negative area for a while… Also, people get to see (my) character come out and I feel like that’s something that people were drawn to.
OC: What has been your favourite reaction?
KO: That’s hard. Gabrielle Union was super sweet. She called me her Woman’s Crush Wednesday and she was talking about how empowering I have been. And so I thought that was awesome. Also Janet Jackson. Those are really cool.
OC: There’s been a lot of talk about change in the culture in gymnastics currently. What do you think elite gymnastics can take from collegiate?
KO: I think realising that you don’t have to get rid of joy in order to have results and the fun. I think Simone (Biles) is a perfect example. It looks like she always has a blast and I know when we were in elite – I know it wasn’t the (most fun) of times but I know we always had so much fun together.
She is just such a happy person naturally. And she is an insane gymnast. (I think just) understanding that we do make mistakes… I wish there were more communication between athletes, coaches and parents (so) it was more in unison.
Friendship with Simone Biles
OC: What is your first memory of Simone?
KO: (The first thing) I remember watching her do her straddle back on bars and she would just float in the air for like 10 seconds before she reached the low bar. I was short (but) she was so short... It’s amazing to see just how much she has grown as a person in the sport and outside.
OC: Have you guys stayed in touch?
KO: I probably last saw her last year when she was in LA for Dancing with the Stars. And we have stayed in touch. I think when I got injured and I went in the slump, and Simone was so key in pulling me out. Because she was constantly there for me and I tried pushing her aside because I didn’t want to have to like – as selfish as that is – I couldn’t do it any more so I didn’t want to see it.
She continued encouraging me and being there for me and dragged me out of it and she has always been an amazing friend since. We stay in touch and Facetime from time to time. And text.
OC: What has it been like to watch her dominate for so long?
KO: It’s so insane. At first, I was like,"‘Let other people win. Come on, Simone!" But it’s crazy to see how amazing she’s been and it like almost like she’s not human.
NCAA Championships and Miss Val
OC: So, we are getting close to NCAA Championships – UCLA are defending national champions – how has that pressure changed the outlook of you day-in, day-out training?
KO: I think we just learned through season what we wanted to work on and what takeaways we had in our last couple of meets. And then implementing that into our workouts and being more intentional with every turn we take.
For me, personally, I like to take things one day at a time. And one competition at a time. And I don’t want to get ahead of myself and this is nationals and this is my last year so I want to soak every single moment in.
OC: It's Miss Val’s last year after 36 seasons here, I think. She’s talked a lot about what you have meant to her. What has she meant to you?
KO: She’s been my rock the whole time I have been here. From the time that I came in and I was a rebel – and she was trying to create trust between the two of us. (She did) not overstep anything because I was so fragile coming in as a freshman. She learned how to back off but still be there for me and coach me into a woman versus a gymnast.
"She is definitely my second mom." - Katelyn on Miss Val
If I have anything – then I can come to her. And whether it is something embarrassing and personal or something about gymnastics. She has always been there.
OC: Can you name the number one lesson from her?
KO: Life is a number of choices by which the choices you take dictate the life you live. That’s something she always says to us. And, "Be anxious for nothing and grateful for all things". Because there are so many times when we can be negative and find the worst in situations (when) there’s so much to be grateful for. And really understanding that every thought starts with us.
The way we are programmed and we can flip in a second. Why dwell on all these negatives when you can just flip it just like that?
"Be anxious for nothing and grateful for all things."
OC: Your career as gymnast has been long but it is coming to a close soon. How has she prepared for you to make that transition?
KO: She’s been preparing me for like a really long time – ever since I walked onto campus. And that’s what makes her different to so many coaches. Because she does it with all her athletes. Getting me to understand that gymnastics isn’t what defines me.
Katelyn Ohashi and Miss Val were this week’s guests on the Olympic Channel Podcast.
Each week we find the biggest athletes and speakers athletes to talk about the Olympics.