On the final day of the 2019 NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships in April, Katelyn Ohashi struck the opening pose of the floor routine that launched her into viral stardom.
Many assumed this was the last time the former U.S. national team member would perform the fun-filled choreography and sky-high tumbling that first captivated fans in January, but Ohashi isn't ready to hang up her leotard just yet.
When given the chance to compete one more time August 21 at the inaugural Aurora Games, Ohashi saw it as “an opportunity for me to get out there again and do one last routine," she told USA TODAY Sports, adding that "the idea of it all being female athletes together is super empowering."
The week-long festival "is a multi-sport, multi-country, multi-day event showcasing the best in women’s sports, entertainment and culture and was created as a platform for 'women to take center stage,'" per the event website. Female Olympians, world and national champions across six sports will join either Team Americas or Team World and compete against each other in pursuit of the Babe Didrikson Zaharias Trophy.
Ohashi, who decided to go pro to participate in the event at Times Union Center in Albany, New York, after graduating college, wasn't the only UCLA superstar drawn in by the competition. Recently retired head coach Valorie Kondos Field, known as "Miss Val" among the gymnastics community, is helping facilitate the production of the gymnastics events.
Kondos Field joined forces with Jessica O'Beirne, the creator and producer of the GymCastic podcast, "to figure out what other gymnastics-type sports could we bring into this event that day that would be a little bit more exciting than just watching female gymnasts vault or do bars.”
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Excited to announce that I will be a part of the inaugural Aurora Games celebrating elite female athletes from across the globe! @Katelyn_Ohashi will make her professional debut, competing for Team Americas coached by celebrity coach @JJoynerKersee who will go head to head with the coach for the Worlds team @Comaneci10 Tix on sale now bit.ly/AuroraGamesTix #jointhemovement @Auroragamesfest #auroragamesfest
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In addition to judging performance quality on every event, Field is choreographing "a flash mob type event for after the awards with all of the athletes involved." She hopes to include three-time Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee and five-time Olympic gold medalist Nadia Comaneci in that performance. Joyner-Kersee (Team Americas) and Comaneci (Team World) are serving as honorary captains.
“I always believe that every sporting event should transcend sport and be bigger than just the event, so I’m really excited they’re letting me do that," Field said. "I think it’s going to be an amazing showcase of gymnastics talent.”
Athletes competing include figure skating champion Ashley Wagner, Olympic volleyball player April Ross, 2017 Wimbledon Champion Garbiñe Muguruza and Olympic champion hockey player Hannah Brandt.
Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, who presided over the Larry Nassar case, will be a keynote speaker at the event.
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