By Jonathan Riggs | April 13, 2022
“Katelyn Ohashi epitomizes Bruin values with her strength of character, compassion and leadership in the face of challenges,” said David Schaberg, senior dean of the UCLA College. “She will inspire our graduating seniors and UCLA community to approach the next chapter of their lives with open hearts and limitless courage.”
From childhood, Ohashi was an avid gymnast, making her debut at the 2009 junior olympic national championships at age 12. She went on to become the 2011 junior national champion and defeated Simone Biles to win the 2013 American Cup. Despite suffering a back injury the next year and being told by doctors she might not be able to compete again, Ohashi persisted — earning a full gymnastics scholarship to UCLA.
“I am so proud to address my fellow Bruins and help celebrate this wonderful accomplishment in their lives,” said Ohashi, who graduated in 2019 with a degree in gender studies. “I hope to inspire them to embrace challenges, love themselves and find their voices.”
An eight-time All-American and four-time member of USA Gymnastics’ junior national team, Ohashi became one of the most decorated gymnasts in UCLA history. During her Bruin career, she earned 11 perfect 10s — including for a 2019 floor routine that became an internet sensation. She was named Pac-12 specialist of the year in 2018 and 2019, and was 2018 NCAA and Pac-12 co-champion in the floor exercise as well as 2019 Pac-12 co-champion in the floor exercise and balance beam. During her senior year, Ohashi took first place for each of her first seven routines.
In addition to her studies and gymnastics achievements while at UCLA, Ohashi led fundraisers to help individuals struggling with homelessness. She also volunteered for Project Heal, a nonprofit focused on helping people recover from eating disorders. As a motivational speaker and activist, she continues to advocate for body positivity. When Ohashi was honored at the 2019 ESPY Awards, she delivered a spoken-word poem denouncing body shaming, sexual assault and cyberbullying.
Ohashi was chosen to be the class of 2022 commencement speaker by a committee of students, faculty and administrators.