This season, UCLA gymnastics star Katelyn Ohashi captured the hearts of the world — and plenty of perfect 10.0s — with her dynamic and delightful Michael Jackson-inspired floor routine. The video of her performance has over 35 million views on YouTube alone.
But now, right before the Pac-12 championships and weeks before she defends her title at the national championships, she has taken the unprecedented step of ditching her award-winning routine and starting over.
Ohashi decided to make the change because of Leaving Neverland, a detailed and disturbing documentary about Jackson’s alleged sexual abuse of two boys that debuted on HBO last month.
“The goal of my routine is pure joy, and after the documentary, not everyone was feeling that way, and you can never discredit someone’s feelings,” she told espnW.
Ohashi’s new routine features the music of Tina Turner, Beyonce, and Janet Jackson. And it’s not at all a coincidence that all three of those artists are women.
“I just really wanted a women’s empowerment routine because it’s a big part of my platform,” Ohashi said.
Ohashi has long been an advocate for survivors of sexual assault. Last year, she wrote and performed a poem both to raise awareness about sexual assault and to show solidarity with the hundreds of victims of former gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.
She told espnW she hopes that by changing her routine, she can send a message of compassion and understanding.
“I hope they can remember how I speak openly about a lot of the issues that are close to my heart. I think I have a passionate heart about women’s empowerment, and I am very compassionate towards people who have spoken out,” Ohashi said.
“And I hope that by changing my routine, I can be remembered for being more than a gymnast. It’s about understanding issues and having a bigger platform than just the sport.”