Sunday, May 24

Fresh Off the Grill: After record-breaking, viral season, gymnastics enters NCAA title defense

Senior Katelyn Ohashi has become a viral sensation for UCLA gymnastics this season. After she notched her first perfect 10 of the year on floor exercise Jan. 12, her routine has become the most-watched sports video on social media this year. (Amy Dixon/Photo editor)

UCLA is a gymnastics school.

For the last three months, Bruin fans, young gymnasts and celebrities across the nation have been enamored with the Olympic gold medalists and viral sensations that headline UCLA gymnastics.

UCLA historically takes pride in its football and men’s basketball reputations – but this year was different.

Football started its season 0-5 for the first time since 1943 and men’s basketball suffered six losses before conference play even began. The Bruin spirit and passion behind UCLA athletics was fading away.

But that was before the gymnastics season started.

Coming off an NCAA title last season, UCLA gymnastics has drawn its fair share of attention over the last year.

The hype intensified after senior Katelyn Ohashi scored a perfect 10 on her floor routine at the Collegiate Challenge on Jan. 12. The video of Ohashi’s routine garnered thousands of views overnight and has now become the most-watched sports video on social media so far this year with 117 million views.

From being imitated by talk show host Stephen Colbert, to getting a shoutout on Twitter from celebrities like Janet Jackson and Magic Johnson, Ohashi has made a name for herself and UCLA gymnastics.

And it showed.

The Bruins set attendance records this season on their home floor and across the country. Their average attendance in Pauley Pavilion totaled 10,242, surpassing the average men’s basketball game attendance from the 2018-2019 season by nearly 2,000 fans.

UCLA also drew over 5,000 fans at every meet on the road this year, setting new attendance records at Oklahoma, Washington and Stanford.

And those fans didn’t leave disappointed.

Aside from Ohashi, junior Kyla Ross has been on fire this year to say the least. Ross has broken or tied eight NCAA and Pac-12 records this year, including notching at least one perfect 10 in 10 straight meets and achieving two “gym slams.”

It’s been almost unheard of to see Ross not score a 10 at a UCLA gymnastics meet this season. It’s also just as unheard of to imagine any athlete turning down a UCLA gymnastics offer – and that’s because of coach Valorie Kondos Field.

Kondos Field’s tenure in Westwood is ending and fans have been getting in their last chances to see the legend in action.

No athletic program in the nation – not even Duke men’s basketball or Alabama football – can compete with a team that boasts a household name in Ohashi, a record-breaker in Ross and a Coach of the Century in Kondos Field.

That is what makes UCLA gymnastics so special.

It’s hard to watch a meet and not become enamored with the team. The culture of UCLA gymnastics comes through in every routine, skill and facial expression. Now that March Madness is over, becoming an instant fan is as easy as watching the NCAA gymnastics championship this weekend.

I dare you.

Editor in chief

Forburger is the 2019-2020 editor in chief. She was previously an assistant Sports editor for the women's volleyball, gymnastics, softball, swim and dive and rowing beats and was a Sports reporter before that.

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