When Katelyn Ohashi debuted her floor routine in the UCLA gymnastic team’s season-opening meet, her goal was just to remember it.
“That was exciting that I actually got it down,” Ohashi said, laughing after the Bruins season-opening meet against Nebraska on Jan. 4.
The Bruins earned a first-place team score of 197.700 against California, Michigan State and UC Davis in Anaheim on Saturday, and Ohashi received a perfect 10 in her second time performing the floor routine.
After UCLA shared video of her routine it went viral, earning more than 4 million views and recognition from Jemele Hill and Kamala Harris.
The year before, Ohashi performed a floor routine set to Michael Jackson music. The routine earned more than 90 million views online, as Ohashi became the NCAA 2018 floor champion.
“We just kept, ‘How’re we gonna top that? How’re we gonna top that?’ ” coach Valorie Kondos Field said.
That question prompted months of deliberation between Ohashi, Kondos Field and the rest of the UCLA coaching staff that stretched on through UCLA’s winter break. They enlisted the help of Ariana Berlin, a former Bruin who is a gymnast and dancer. They met over dinner at Kondos Field’s house and finally began formulating a routine, set to a mix of old music.
They had a routine, but there was one problem — Ohashi thought it wasn’t challenging enough. She sandwiched more flips in between her flips, shifting her performance from impressive to mind-boggling, for spectators and her coaches.
“It’s ridiculous how much she does in that routine that she doesn’t have to do,” Kondos Field said.
UCLA took care to keep her routine confidential, Kondos Field said, because it still was not done. They finalized it days before the season-opening meet, where the routine earned a 9.95. She added a split double lay in her performance on Saturday.
Did it top her national title-winning routine?
“I’ve never seen her perform like that,” Kondos Field said. “Ever, in your entire life. I’ve never seen her facial, her performance quality, be that professional, as I saw tonight.”