UCLA celebrates at the ESPYS with gymnast Katelyn Ohashi taking home 2 awards
Former UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi’s Jan. 12 floor routine in Anaheim landed two ESPY Awards on Wednesday night. She took home Best Viral Sports Moment, as well as Best Play, which was seeded fifth in a bracket of 16. (Amy Dixon/Daily Bruin senior staff)
By Jason Maikis
July 10, 2019 7:59 p.m.
This post was updated July 11 at 2:47 p.m.
Katelyn Ohashi’s viral floor routine earned 117 million views, a perfect 10 and now, two ESPYS.
The former UCLA gymnast’s Jan. 12 floor routine secured two awards at the 2019 ESPYS on Wednesday night at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. Her performance bested a diving track athlete, a 7-year-old sprinter and a baseball-playing nun for Best Viral Sports Moment before taking home the award for Best Play later in the night.
“Not very many women took home awards last night,” Ohashi said. “It’s great to see how my routine was noticed by the people. I was talking before about beating Kawhi Leonard, an athlete I’ve looked up to for such a long time – it’s just crazy.”
Ohashi’s routine was the No. 5 seed in the Best Play fan vote bracket, and it took down a Texas A&M track and field photo finish – as well as a Wayne Rooney game-winning tackle and assist – to become a finalist. On Wednesday, Ohashi beat out a 99-yard touchdown, a series-winning buzzer-beater and a walk-off hook-and-ladder.
As her acceptance speech for Best Play, Ohashi recited a rhyming, spoken-word poem in the spirit of her upcoming book.
“I definitely want to continue doing speaking engagements,” Ohashi said. “I have an all-activism, poetry book coming out soon, too. I love inspiring people by speaking and writing.”
UCLA softball rising redshirt senior Rachel Garcia was nominated for Best College Athlete, but the honor ultimately went to Duke men’s basketball forward Zion Williamson.
Rising junior utility Kinsley Washington’s championship-clinching walk-off was one of the 16 other moments nominated for Best Play, but it was eliminated from contention prior to Wednesday night’s show.
Washington said the stage is larger than ever for women to be front and center in sports.
“It’s great to see the ESPYS recognizing female athletes’ accomplishments throughout their seasons and careers,” Washington said. “Especially with what the (U.S.) Women’s (Soccer) National Team is doing winning the World Cup – how they’re advocating for equal pay, fighting for what they believe in – it’s really inspiring for female athletes everywhere.”
Ohashi said having three female athletes representing UCLA was special because of the greater visibility it gave women’s athletics, but pointed out Garcia’s loss as an example of how much ground there is still left to cover.
“Women in sports are so overlooked,” Ohashi said. “You could even tell with some of the ESPYS nominations, seeing the voting percentages on Twitter for Best College Athlete on Twitter for (Garcia) at 7% versus players like (Williamson) and (Kyler Murray) getting 60 and 30%.”
Garcia turned in a 29-1 record and 1.14 ERA from the circle – along with a .343 average and 11 home runs at the dish – in her redshirt junior season. She also took home the Women’s College World Series Most Outstanding Player award after pitching in every game and launching a 10th-inning walk-off home run to send the Bruins to the finals.
Between her regular season, postseason and intersport accolades, Garcia said the past few months have been a whirlwind.
“All of it is crazy because I really haven’t had time to take anything in,” Garcia said. “I’m just so thankful for all softball has given me – representing UCLA and Team USA – and now this.”
City of stars
The trio of women weren’t the only Bruins at the ESPYS, however.
Just hours after the USWNT wrapped up its Women’s World Cup championship parade through Manhattan, the team – featuring former Bruins Mallory Pugh, Samantha Mewis, Abby Dahlkemper and coach Jill Ellis – made it to the ESPYS in time to win Best Team.
At the preceding red carpet, former UCLA men’s basketball big man Bill Walton praised Bill Russell, who received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award – named after the UCLA alumnus and International Tennis Hall of Famer.
Washington said Tuesday she was excited to witness moments like those first hand.
“One of the things I am looking forward to most is seeing the athletes,” Washington said. “The athletes that are always on TV all the time, seeing them in-person and interacting will be awesome. I really can’t wait to just be there and have fun.”