California gymnast turns up hip-hop swagger

  • 29/02/2016
California gymnast turns up hip-hop swagger

A gymnast at a California university has helped turn the traditional floor routine on its head.

Her combination of high-level athletics and a hip-hop swagger has made her a social media star.

Gymnastics is all about grace, power -- and hip-hop. It's not just the high notes that UCLA gymnast Sophina DeJesus hits; it's those moves -- taking a very traditional sport and making it non-traditional.

She and her teammates are transforming the image of the sport, says Valorie Kondos-Field, now in her 26th year as UCLA head gymnastics coach.

"I feel that it's much more about entertainment now than about the rigid sport of perfection," says Ms Kondos-Field.

Ms DeJesus is getting high marks from judges, but even higher marks on social media, where her floor exercise earlier this month -- the first time she ever performed it -- went viral.

"I woke up and my mom called me and she's like, 'Oh honey, did you know that you have like 5 million views on your floor routine?'"

It's now been viewed more than 40 million times. She didn't even know it had been posted.

"Well some of my favourite [responses] have been some marriage proposals and prom proposals," says Ms DeJesus.

A lot of celebrities have taken notice too, like Reese Witherspoon and Chris Brown.

Even Ms DeJesus' teammates have got into the groove, along with her coach, who admits you can please a crowd, but still not please everyone. 

"I think there are some judges who still don't like it," says Ms Kondos-Field. "I've always just compared it to a Picasso. You know, a Picasso's worth $30 million, but there are a lot of people who would not put a Picasso in their home, because they don't like it. But that doesn't mean it's not excellent art."

Ms DeJesus has danced professionally, and says her future remains in dance. You will not find the nene, the whip and the dab this summer in Rio, but to the millions who have now viewed her routine she says: "That one performance that I did, it was like, that was my Olympics."

It was a moment as good as gold.

CBS News