Gymnastics Gone Viral!
Something really cool happened recently, for one of the gymnasts on my team here at UCLA: Sophina DeJesus got to perform her Floor routine for the first time this year, at our home stadium here on our university campus. Her hard work leading up to the competition paid off and the judges gave her a 9.925 out of a possible 10! But wait, that’s not even the coolest part. The truly cool part is that after the competition was over, one of our UCLA fans uploaded a video of Sophina’s routine to Facebook, and it turns out the rest of the world loved her routine even more than the judges… Sophina DeJesus became an overnight Internet sensation due to her hip hop style in addition to her clean tumbling. At the time of writing, her routine has been viewed over 40 million times worldwide- and that’s excluding TV views and YouTube copies of the clip.
This exposure is totally awesome news. Having a gymnastics routine go viral outside of the gymnastics community means the sport has been shown to new audiences globally. People who may not have ever taken the time to watch gymnastics have now done so, because of the viral nature of the video. Sophina’s energetic routine was shown on various TV networks across the world, inspiring new supporters, especially with her fun choreography, and this encourages new participants to join in and reap the many benefits of being involved with our wonderful sport.
In addition, another benefit to the routine’s popularity is that it’s reminding the general public that gymnastics exists and matters outside of the Olympic Games. Many people in the general population only ever watch or hear about gymnastics during the Olympics. While it’s fantastic that the Olympics brings people together in celebration of athleticism in all areas, and that Gymnastics captures a lot of attention there every 4 years, Gymnastics is not just about the Olympics! Every day in between those Games there are gymnasts practicing, learning, working hard and having fun. The 99.99% of gymnasts who are not and will not be Olympians are important and Sophina has drawn attention to that.
Finally, many ethnically diverse women have reported feeling empowered by seeing Sophina (who is half-African American and half-Puerto Rican) perform, excel, and be celebrated, in what is often a white-dominated sport. I have always been proud of the diversity on our UCLA team and believe that diversity is fundamental to a thriving community and world, so anything that encourages someone to be proud of their identity, or motivated by a relatable role model, is fantastic. Sophina told the LA Times that ““It’s not mainly about one ethnicity doing this sport,” she says. “I do embrace my ethnicities for sure, and I hope to inspire others that are my ethnicity, and aren’t, and everyone in general, because we are all equal”. Perfectly said, Soph.
For me, however, the number one moment of all of this has to be…. going on The Ellen Show last week! Sophina was invited as a guest following her Internet fame, and fortunately some of my teammates and I were able to go with her to watch from the front row of the audience. It was a really enjoyable experience, from seeing the backstage room filled with healthy snacks and mirrors with lights, to dancing with Twitch and being sat right next to Ryan Reynolds (AKA Deadpool) on the show! I feel very lucky to be in my position at the moment and this has definitely been a week I won’t forget.
If you missed Soph’s routine somehow here is one version from YouTube:
I’ll be back soon with another blog about career opportunities for gymnasts!