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(video courtesy Fox News)
A video of UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi has gone viral this week after the 21-year-old scored a perfect 10 for her floor routine.
The video, posted by the UCLA Gymnastics Twitter account, has racked up nearly 40 million views since Saturday. In it, we see Ohashi performing two minutes of powerful gymnastic moves, energetic dances and jaw-dropping feats of athleticism – all with a smile on her face. Her routine is flawless and she seems to be having the time of her life.
A ???? isn’t enough for this floor routine by @katelyn_ohashi. ???? pic.twitter.com/pqUzl7AlUA
— UCLA Gymnastics (@uclagymnastics) January 13, 2019
What we don’t see in the video, however, is that Ohashi lives with two chronic illnesses, ulcerative colitis and granuloma annulare.
The gymnast has been open about her health and body image issues on her blog, Behind the Madness. She revealed she was diagnosed with GA, a rare skin disease, in 2008 after she found a “strange, shiny, hard circle” on her left bicep. Eruptions of granuloma annulare often disappear without treatment, but for some, the condition can recur. In Ohashi’s case, doctors told her the circle on her bicep would go away within three years, but as of 2018, she still had it – as well as many other circles all over her body.
“On the bright side, it doesn’t give me any trouble, just a lot of questions from the public eye that I have no answers for, because they remain unanswered for myself,” she wrote. “I’ve had them for so long now, that although at times I wish they weren’t there, I also almost can’t imagine myself without them. They are like a part of me that makes me who I am; and in addition to that, what’s the fun in having normal skin anyway?”
In 2016, Ohashi also began experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms, including blood in her stool, stomach pain, vomiting and uncontrollable bowel movements. This went on for several months and began to interfere with her everyday life. She explained:
I started having uncontrollable bowel movements, where I would have to carry a second pair of clothes with me, times when I was so close to the restroom but not close enough, and times I was incapable of going to the gym, afraid I would have an accident during one of my tumbling passes. I also had a really hard time using public restrooms, (which because of my urgency, is not really an option for me anymore), since I found that most of my bowel movements contained loud gas and had completely changed consistency.
Eventually, Ohashi scheduled a colonoscopy and was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation and ulcers in the innermost lining of the colon and rectum.
Though she may “look well” in this week’s viral video, Ohashi shared that she continues to experience flare-ups that affect her ability to keep down food and cause her weight to fluctuate.
Whether a person is performing breathtaking gymnastics moves in front of an audience or going for a quiet walk in their neighborhood, Ohashi’s experiences are a reminder that illness isn’t always “visible.”
“We are all experiencing something,” Ohashi wrote. “It’s just a matter of looking beneath the surface.”
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