Gymnast Katelyn Ohashi Gave the Most Empowering Speech at the ESPYs
UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi gave an incredible speech last night at the ESPY Awards.
If you don't recognize her name, you will probably recognize her insane floor routine and flawless "stick it" landings that went viral following a gymnastics meet versus Oklahoma back in January. Now, Ohashi's using her platform to stick it to every body-shamer who has ever judged and/or objectified female gymnasts.
Ohashi was honored at the 2019 ESPYs on Wednesday, having received an award for "Best Viral Sports Moment," as well as a nomination for "Best Play," but while Ohashi has become known for her infectiously joyful disposition and playful routines, it was her more serious acceptance speech—delivered as a poem—that got attention this time. While on stage, she touched upon the sexual abuse and body-shaming permeating female gymnastics right now, including some of the damaging comments she's received personally.
"I started seeing myself in the news trying to infuse a little bit of joy in my sport after all the abuse and misuse of people in a higher power," Ohashi said, nodding to former USA Olympic gymnastics sports physician, Larry Nassar, who pleaded guilty to charges of first-degree sexual assault on USA gymnasts.
"It's no wonder why our voices went silent as theirs would just tower," she continued. "But today, mine no longer cowers."
Ohashi went on to thank her parents and coaches for their support and expressed gratitude toward the internet for making her ESPYs win possible. She addressed cyber bullies and pointed out the extreme lack of respect for women's bodies online and on the mat.
"As a female in sport, women comment things like 'you should be in the kitchen,' I sadly report. The skimpy leos made it easy to see, and people took it as their duty to judge me," Ohashi said, adding that she received comments about her uniform being "too revealing," that her body was "too fat" and "so thick." "The objectification of our bodies is making me sick," she continued. (Related: Why Commenting On a Woman's Body Is Never Okay)
Ohashi says one of her coaches told her that, as an athlete, "you live your life in the light," she previously told Medium. "Everyone is watching us, and we're not supposed to show emotion," she said. But over time, she says she learned that being a gymnast is only part of her identity, not the entirety of it, she told the site.
Ohashi may have landed on the ESPYs stage because she's an incredible gymnast, but she's made it clear that she's so much more than a viral video. She's an advocate for body positivity, female empowerment, and women supporting women—and shouldn't we all be?
She ended her speech with the perfect, rhyming mic drop: "Thankful to live in a country where females can compete, so, trust me, your words will never be the reason for our defeat."