You may have read about or even seen the video of UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi who put up a perfect 10.0 score on her floor routine this past Saturday in a competition at Anaheim. That makes sense, since it's the home of Disneyland, so you get to see what it's like for Peter Pan fly in real life. As a grad school graduate of UCLA, I was admittedly proud of it, but whatever planet you're from it's a joy to watch.
It's even better with perspective, and this article by Allyson Chiu from today's Washington Post does that impeccably. You can read it here, and I heartily recommend that before watching the video.
If you don't want to take the time (but do, it's not long, it's a sports article for goodness sake...), two passages give the most perspective.
The first is -- "But for many, Ohashi's performance stood out simply because she appeared to be having fun, a rare sight in an often stressful and grueling sport that demands perfection from its athletes.
"'I don't think I've ever seen someone visibly having this much fun while competing,' one person tweeted.
"Another person wrote,'Not only was it perfect looking, her joy is absolutely contagious.'"
And the second, longer passage puts even this above in perspective. That's because only a couple years ago Ms. Ohashi had pulled back from gymnastics. She was considered a top gymnast, and had been on what's considered an "elite" Olympic track, spending four years on USA Gymnastics' junior national team. Just five years ago, she won the American Cup, beating her teammate Simone Biles, who soon after won four Olympic gold medals. But Ohashi pulled back from the sport, burned out and hurt. She still competed, but not that elite level. For the publication Players Tribune, she recently put out a video, "I Was Broken," delving into her story that took her out of that level of competition.
The article continues --
"'There was a time where I was on top of the world, an Olympic hopeful,' Ohashi narrates. 'I was unbeatable, until I wasn't.'
"Ohashi went on to describe the intense pressure she faced competing at the elite level - fans telling her "she wasn't good enough," constantly stressing about what she ate and being compared to "a bird that couldn't fly." In video clips of her at meets during that time, Ohashi rarely had a smile on her face. When she finally made the decision to retire from elite gymnastics with the hopes of becoming a college athlete, she had been competing with a fractured back and two torn shoulders.
"'It took me finding Ms. Val [Kondos Field] and UCLA and having a different goal and path to follow, to finally find joy and love within the sport again,' Ohashi said in the video, adding, 'I haven't been able to feel this type of happiness in a long time.'
She continued: 'It's not the outcome. It's not me standing on the podium with medals. It's me being able to walk out with a smile on my face and truly being happy with myself.'"
And this is the result.
By the way, I recommend watching the video again. But not with your eyes on Katelyn Ohashi -- watch her teammates, and their utter joy watching her on the floor. You can see some of them in the picture above. There's one young woman -- you can't see her above -- blond and with a bun, who at the end seems almost out of her mind with happiness, bouncing her way enthusiastically. That's how good this floor exercise is -- it's great without even watching the gymnast.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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