ALBANY, N.Y. -- Ever since UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi competed that perfect 10 floor routine in January this year, her life has changed forever. She became an internet sensation overnight, her magnetic smile and performance, combined with extraordinarily difficult tumbling, earning her more than 110 million views on social media platforms.
But for every comment that calls her a superstar, there is also a comment that shames her body -- that talks about her weight and her looks.
Ohashi has been open about her struggles with body image and eating disorders in the past, and she even runs a blog where she talks about these issues. She only graduated a few months ago, but she already has bigger plans to use her voice and platform to talk about issues young girls face -- particularly those pursuing sports like gymnastics.
She is one of four former NCAA gymnastics superstars participating in the Aurora Games -- a multi-day festival of women's sports -- at the Albany Capital Center, Aug. 20-25. Ohashi will compete alongside Florida's Alicia Boren, LSU's McKenna Kelley (daughter of Olympic legend Mary Lou Retton) and UCLA's Danusia Francis -- and on Tuesday, Ohashi talked at the opening press conference about using events like the Games to give voice to bigger issues.
"At the end of the day, sports is just a stepping stone to get where you want in life, and you learn all these life lessons, so you have this platform to be able to share it with the world. That's what I've really tried to work on the past four years in college," she said.
She is working on a book focusing on important but difficult topics like abuse, anxiety and depression, Ohashi said in an interview with ESPN after the press conference.
"I feel like so many gymnastics things are drama-infused, but I really want to highlight the hardships that we go through growing up with it," she said. "It's a story about a girl that moves away from home at an extremely young age, and what the neglect of parents later brings on into her life. On top of that, what it's like to have abusive coaches and a sister that was also a gymnast that never fully excelled. We find out later the reasons behind that -- and [the main character] starts getting really bad anxiety and depression."
Apart from the book, which she hopes to finish in a year, she's also working on a book of "activism poetry," for which she is shooting her own photographs.
"I want to talk about things that are relevant now -- I recently wrote a poem about an earthquake, what that all entails," she said. "It's not because I think I know a lot about these topics, but it's because I have a perspective and I feel passionately about the topics."
Ohashi's dream is to be a creative content director, she said, and starting next month, she plans to launch a YouTube channel where she will pick a topic and have an open dialogue about it for young girls. She's particularly aware of social media's influence today.
"I am in a spot where I grew up without any social media and then suddenly it became a big part of my life -- it's crazy to think about, but to be in that position to talk about the changes and have a platform to voice my experiences and concerns, that's what I want to do," she said.
In 2019, Ohashi became the face of collegiate gymnastics. People stopped her on the streets asking her for photos and autographs. But, moving forward, she wants the focus to shift to her content.
"I don't want to be the face. When you are the person that people want to see, I want to transition over to creating content that people will want to see," she concluded.