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UCLA Coach Helps Star Gymnast Find Her Way Back To A Sport She Loves

UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi makes gymnastics look effortless — and fun.

In a video that went viral recently, Ohashi, 21, performs a "perfect 10" floor routine, sticking her landings and tumbling with power and ease — all with a gigantic smile across her face. She looks like she's having a great time competing at the Collegiate Challenge on Jan. 12.

But Ohashi hasn't always felt this way about gymnastics. Before coming to UCLA, Ohashi was a teenage Olympic hopeful devoted to the sport. The injuries and body shaming that came with elite competition took a toll on her self-worth. Instead of aiming for the Olympics, she decided to pursue gymnastics at the college level.

In an interview with NPR's Morning Edition,her UCLA coach, Valorie Kondos Field — or "Coach Val," as she is known — remembers asking Ohashi in 2013 when she last loved gymnastics.

"She had just won the American Cup, so she was the greatest gymnast in the world, and she said, 'I lost my love for the sport when I was 11.' She was miserable," Kondos Field says. Ohashi won the competition shortly before her 16th birthday.

With Coach Val's help at UCLA, Ohashi clearly has rekindled her love for gymnastics.

"I realized that I had to earn her trust, that I cared about her more as a human being than as an athlete — and I cared about her in spite of her gymnastics," Kondos Field says.

And it shows in that video.

Morning Edition's Sonia May Htoon and Danny Hajek produced and edited this story for broadcast.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.