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Katelyn Ohashi might have thought that her gymnastics career was over when she walked away from competing at the elite level of the sport at just 16 years old. But after returning to the gym as a part of the UCLA Bruins collegiate team, and scoring a perfect-10 on a floor routine that has since gone viral, the 21-year-old is confident that stepping away from the immense pressure that she once felt was a gift to both her and the sport.
“It’s like the reward I could have never seen coming,” the college senior tells Yahoo Lifestyle of the recent recognition. “To see this happiness and joy and realize that this sport isn’t bad, at all.”
The realization is a powerful one coming from the athlete who experienced intense pressure and body shaming at the hands of her gymnastics peers and coaches. And although she wasn’t one of the hundreds who spoke up about being a victim of former USA Gymnastics trainer Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse, the Olympic hopeful still calls herself a “survivor” of a broken system. Specifically, a survivor of the eating disorder it led her to.
“I think the survivor part is super impactful because you aren’t dictated by whatever you went through,” Ohashi says of overcoming bulimia — a personal struggle that she’s written about on her blog Behind the Madness. “It’s how you come out on the other side.”
For her, the other side was discovering who she is without gymnastics, after a fractured back and shoulder injuries forced her out of the sport. After so many years in the gym, Ohashi admits that she relied on gymnastics for validation. Now, she’s able to have fun with her sport — and it’s showing in her work.
“Someone said this is what gymnastics needed after all of the negativity that our sport has gotten the past couple years,” Ohashi explains. “There was a culture that was created for a while but I think we’re starting to break away from it. Gymnastics has taught me so many lessons and I couldn’t be more grateful for everything that I’ve gone through.”
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle:
• Viral gymnast Katelyn Ohashi opens up about body shaming, burnout and internet fame
• Viral gymnast Katelyn Ohashi wants to be on ‘Dancing With the Stars’
• Hillary Clinton says Speaker Nancy Pelosi proves it ‘takes a woman’ to get things done