Inside Gymnastics: So tell us about the tour! How is this tour different from others you’ve done?
Shawn Johnson: This is only my second tour with gymnastics, my first time was after my Olympics in ’08, and I feel like it’s completely different. When it’s right after the Olympics, it can be crazy and chaotic, and you’re still kind of on that whirlwind. Now I feel like, eight years later, I can just enjoy it and hang out with my friends and soak it all in. But it’s been a blast, we’re loving it and don’t want it to end.
Inside: What advice do you give to the “Final Five” about life after winning gold and everything that comes with that?
Shawn: My goodness, I don’t know. I feel like they’re still on that whirlwind and trying to figure everything out. The one thing I tell them, along with Nastia and everyone else, is just to sort through it one thing at a time, take one day at a time, and remember that you’re human, and they can say no…and it’s going to be confusing for a while, but that’s normal.
Inside: Do you think that the U.S. women’s program will change now that Martha Karolyi has retired?
Shawn: I don’t know enough about how it’s all going to work to know the answer, but I would honestly say probably not. I feel like Martha has laid an incredible foundation in her program, and I think Valeri believes in that program, and he’s going to continue with it.
Inside: I know you’ve talked about possibly coaching gymnastics at some point, would you consider coaching elite gymnasts?
Shawn: I don’t really know; I don’t know who it is I would want to coach or what I want to do exactly. 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.
Inside: I’d like to talk a little bit about your elite career during the time of your comeback. Could you walk us through your competitions in 2011? You had such a strong showing at Pan Ams, which was five years ago now…
Shawn: Yeah, my 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. My first few meets back were pretty rough, 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.
Inside: What were some of the things that prompted your retirement in June 2012? Had you reinjured your knee at any point since Pan Ams?
Shawn: Yes, I did. 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.
Inside: Have you ever thought seriously about attempting another comeback after 2012?
Shawn: Uh, no [laughs]. I’m done, I will forever be done. I love it, I’d love to do it again, but I can’t.
Inside: What do you think was the greatest moment in your gymnastics career? Was it winning beam gold at 2008 Olympics?
Shawn: I don’t know. The Olympics was obviously a huge highlight. But I think for me it was the all-around competition or the team competition. 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…
Inside: Do you think you’re going to write any more books?
Shawn: I’d love to…I don’t have any plans yet, but yeah, I’d love to. I’d love to write sequels to the ones I have, and share more of my story if I can.
Inside: So what’s next for you, after the tour is over?
Shawn: I got married about six months ago, and have yet to really spend time with my husband, so after the tour’s over, I plan to go home and be a wife and enjoy the feeling of life for a while.
Shawn Johnson Through The Years
2008 American Cup
2008 American Cup
2016 Olympic Trials
Anna Rose Johnson writes about women’s artistic and rhythmic gymnastics. She loves Whippets, brownies, and full-twisting double layouts. Her writing portfolio can be viewed at: https://annarosejohnson.contently.com