10 Minutes with: Shawn Johnson (USA)



Full Twist contributor Anna Rose Johnson recently caught up with Shawn Johnson to discuss what she’s been up to, her favorite competition memories, and what she would change about gymnastics.

Shawn Johnson is the 2008 Olympic Champion on balance beam. At those Beijing Games, she also won the all-around and floor exercise silver medals and silver with Team USA. She was a three-time World Champion in 2007 when she won team, all-around, and floor gold medals. The first star to emerge from Chow’s Gymnastics in Des Moines, Iowa, Shawn’s endless contributions to the sport have made her a fan favorite all over the world. She also won the eighth season of Dancing with the Stars and was the runner-up in the fifteenth season.

It has just been announced on The Today Show that Shawn will appear as a cast member on the upcoming 7th season of The Celebrity Apprentice which will air on NBC.


            FT: What have you been up to lately?

            SJ: Recently I have been splitting my time between the usual appearances and weekly travel and now the college life! I have taken the leap back into the books and am flying through my first year studying Psychology with hopes to be a Nurse Practitioner someday! On top of the books I’ve still been traveling and working with Nike hosting events with the world’s top trainers, promoting and running half marathons, and making frequent visits to the Nike Campus in Portland, Oregon. I recently judged the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, filmed a new season of a crazy fun huge NBC show that I can’t tell you about yet, haha, and am getting ready to launch my own personal series of gymnastics competitions!! Needless to say I am keeping myself busy!!


            FT: Do you ever consider trying to make another comeback in gymnastics? 

            SJ: Oh lawd!! Haha I’ve actually thought of it a few times as I miss gymnastics so so so FLIPPIN much but unfortunately my body has called it a quits and my days are done. I will for sure be a part of the sport forever though! I know I haven’t had the largest presence in the sport the past couple of years but I can assure you that is going to change here soon! I miss you all way too much to stay away any longer!


            FT: What was your favorite skill to compete?

            SJ: My favorite skill was always the flight series on the beam!!! I don’t know why, considering it was terrifying, but I always felt like I stood out when I did and it made me feel like I could fly!


            FT: It’s been six years now since the 2008 Olympics; can you reflect on some of your experiences in Beijing?

            SJ: 6 YEARS!!!!!!! I swear it was yesterday!!! Man I’m getting old 😉 Wow, experiences….. I’ve been so blessed to experience some of the greatest things possible! So, to change things up a little I’ll reflect on a few that weren’t out in the public eye! A few of the greatest moments I’ve gotten to experience since the Olympics……

-Moving to Nashville! It was completely spontaneous and out of nowhere but it’s now where I call home and wouldn’t have it any other way. I miss Iowa and will go back someday as it is my real home but I love the community I have made in Nashville and life I get to lead.

-Meeting my boyfriend… I don’t put it out there in the public much but we actually got hooked up from the London Olympics! Crazy right!

-Receiving my acceptance letters to Vanderbilt and Penn State… It’s kind of confusing but I go to both ha! Penn State online and Vanderbilt individual classes.

-Being given the opportunity to do what I love. I have gotten to be a part of so many crazy fun things! From Dancing with the Stars to working [with] the First Lady in London. It’s been a whirlwind since the Olympics and it’s still only the beginning.


            FT: What are some of your favorite memories from competition?

            SJ: I would say my favorite memories from competition are all ones that have to do with behind the scenes! From the late night movie sessions with the girls to sneaking Pizza Hut into our hotel in Italy and trying so desperately to make sure Martha and the coaches didn’t catch us!! I remember running around the streets of Venice, Stuttgart, Beijing, and Rio with the girls that I call my sisters just having a blast and getting to see such different and unique cultures. I mean, what 15-year-old gets to run around Rio with her best friends for a few weeks!! I remember in Guadalajara in 2011 after our final competition day, all of the coaches and all of us girls went out to the pool in the athletes’ village and ended up drawing way too much attention!! Haha, not only did we get the coaches to join in on handstand contests and canon bombs but we got the other athletes, from track to shot put, to launch our little selves as high as they could in the air so we could all impress everyone with our flips into the pool! It was a great time.


            FT: What’s a typical day like for you now?

            SJ: A typical day for me now is waking up around 6:30, walking my dog slash the love of my life (he is a mammoth dog hah), working out with my trainer and best friend Mallory Ervin for an hour and half (normally includes running, circuits, and yoga), then I hit the books for anywhere from three to sometimes seven hours! The rest of the day changes all the time. Sometimes I go hiking, others I go watch football practices and games, and then most [often] I board a plane for another job! It’s always busy but that’s what I love.


            FT: If you were going to change anything about gymnastics, what would you change?

            SJ: OH!! DONT GET ME STARTED!! If I were to change just one thing, it would be the staleness of the sport! And before you start saying, “Whoa, gymnastics isn’t stale!!” let me explain. Have you ever been to a level 5 gymnastics meet? How about a level 8? Have you been to multiple? Well I’ve been to hundreds and I’ve witnessed the same thing every single time. You know what that is? It’s that every single meet IS EXACTLY THE SAME!!! I think gymnastics is the absolute best sport in the world but I think we have made it so boring for our little ones! So, if I changed anything it would be that I would let girls have more fun! I would make meets be more exciting, lively, and give competitors more room and freedom to do what they are capable of. I’d let them be more expressive and try riskier and different skills! I’d let them scream and dance and hoot and holler after they finish a routine they are really proud of instead of having to march off of the floor. I just want to see girls be able to have more fun in the greatest sport in the world and not as restricted by rules.


Special thanks to Shawn for taking the time out of her extremely busy schedule to chat with Full Twist! We wish her the best of luck in all of her future projects.

Image via Getty Images.

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