Shawn Johnson . Photograph: Shawn Johnson's Instagram

In a recent interview with Inside Gymnastics, Olympic champion Shawn Johnson talked about the Beijing Olympics, her 2011 comeback, and life after gymnastics.

Shawn Johnson won four medals in Beijing 2008. She won gold on balance beam, and silver in the all around, on floor exercise and with the team. Johnson came into the Games as then reiging world all around champion, and was the favourite to win the Olympic all around title. She however finished second, behind her teammate Nastia Liukin, who that day delivered the performance of a life time.

For years after the competition, Johnson argued that she was very happy with her silver medal. In the past year, however, Johnson has frequently admitted that she was very disappointed with her silver medal, and in a monologue in her YouTube channel, she depicted losing the all around gold in terms of an almost traumatic experience.

For Johnson, winning gold on beam was almost meaningless, because it came too late, when it did not count anymore. Therefore, Johnson does not consider winning gold on beam at the Olympic Games the highlight of her career. ‘The Olympics was obviously a huge highlight,’ she explained. ‘But I think for me it was the all-around competition or the team competition [that counted most for me]. I have never felt so close to the girls than I did during the team [final], and it was a really, really special moment. And the all-around is truly what I dreamed of…

Johnson attempted a comeback in 2011, a year after tearing her ACL in a ski accident. ‘[M]y comeback was stemmed [by] my injury to my knee. I just really wanted to get my body healthy again and I wanted to know that I could still do gymnastics.’

Her body, however, did not respond very well to the stress of elite training. Johnson competed at the Pan American Games in summer 2011, but then got injured again. ‘I had already gone through two knee surgeries and I needed a third; I had a partially torn labrum, a fractured back, and then my body was just falling apart. Unfortunately, I wanted to continue, but my body was telling me no, so I didn’t really have a choice.’

Nevertheless, Johnson was happy with what she achieved during her comeback. ‘My first few meets back were pretty rough,’ she said, ‘but I think I learned a lot from them: they were learning experiences. And then qualifying to Pan Ams after breaking my ankle the same week as World selection camp – there’s so much that happened and went on, but I feel like it was truly a success, and for me it was the perfect ending for my career.’

Will she ever go back to gymnastics? ‘No,’ laughed Johnson, ‘I’m done, I will forever be done. I love it, I’d love to do it again, but I can’t.’

Regarding her future, Johnson is still unsure about what she would like to do: maybe coaching or writing more books. ‘I don’t know who it is I would want to coach or what I want to do exactly, said Johnson. ‘I’ve always loved the idea of coaching collegiate… I don’t know if I could coach elite because – it’s just so intense. I want to have more fun with it than that.’

She could however pursue a writing career: ‘I’d love to write sequels to the ones I have, and share more of my story if I can.’

What Shawn Johnson is really certain of is her love for her husband, who she married six months ago. ‘I got married about six months ago, and have yet to really spend time with my husband,’ she explained. ‘[S]o after the [Kellogg’s] tour’s over, I plan to go home and be a wife and enjoy the feeling of life for a while.’

By Talitha Ilacqua



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