When a single routine makes you one of the most talked-about gymnasts on the planet, it must be hard to turn away from it. For UCLA’s Katelyn Ohashi, however, it was something she felt she had to do.
Ohashi’s floor routine went viral in January when it earned her a perfect 10.0 through a mixture of expert tumbling and joyful choreography set to several hit songs, including a few from Michael Jackson.
However, that routine went sour for her upon the release of “Leaving Neverland,” the HBO documentary that has revived a backlash against Jackson over his sexual abuse allegations and triggered a reassessment of the deceased pop star’s legacy.
Now, Ohashi has told espnW that she will feature a new floor routine at the Pac-12 Championships beginning this Saturday, with no songs from Jackson featured at all.
UCLA tweeted a preview of the new routine Friday:
Funnily enough, every song in the new routine apparently features only female artists, with Beyonce, Tina Turner and Janet Jackson among them. Ohashi told espnW that was a deliberate decision, and also explained what pushed her to remove Jackson:
espnW: Did the outcry towards Michael Jackson after the release of “Leaving Neverland” factor into your decision?
Ohashi: Honestly, in the back of my mind it did, because of the platform that I have. The goal of my routine is pure joy, and after the documentary, not everyone was feeling that way, and you can never discredit someone’s feelings. So yes, it was in the back of my mind because my main goal is to find as much joy as possible in this routine.
It’s worth noting that Ohashi said she was planning to use two floor routines this year, but there’s also probably a good chance she would have made the change regardless.
Even without the context behind her new routine, Ohashi is the gymnast to keep an eye on at the Pac-12 and NCAA Championships. She’s the defending national champion in the floor exercise, and ranked No. 1 in the country again heading into the postseason.