Friday, July 13, 2012
My Exclusive Interview with Olympic Gold Medalist Shawn Johnson
This morning, I had the opportunity to speak with Olympic Gold Medalist Shawn Johnson about her new book Winning Balance. As I spoke with her, I could not help but think that this is a young woman who has accomplished so many great things and has such a great outlook on life. Her authenticity is unavoidable, and the passion she has for living a life full of purpose is apparent when she speaks. At the young age of 20, Shawn has proved that with hard work and determination, you can reach your dreams. I want to thank Shawn for taking the time to speak with me, and I encourage you all to read her book, which can be purchased by clicking here. I guarantee you will be left feeling inspired!
First off, I want to say how inspiring you are and how much of a role model you are to people of all ages. What inspired you to decide to write a book based upon your experiences and what you have learned so far?
Going through the whole writing a book process, I really wanted to do it because my story has been covered so many times by everybody else and their perspectives. I really wanted to give out my more vulnerable side. I kept journals and diaries, and I just thought it was a great opportunity to connect to people on a more human level than an Olympic platform where people are like 'Oh she's just a machine.'
What do you hope people come away learning about Shawn Johnson after reading your story?
Hopefully, they see that it's not as easy as people portrayed it to be, and that it wasn't just gifted to me, and I wasn't born into it. I worked for it, and I had ups and downs and normal trials and triumphs like everybody else. Hopefully, it inspires them to think, 'well, she is like me; maybe I can do it too.'
As a fellow Christian, I know how important faith is. Faith is a big part of your life and you talk about it in your book. How has faith and your walk with Christ helped you through your times of struggle and hardship?
I'd say my faith has really gotten me through everything, it's given a reason to it. Going through gymnastics and the big movement like the Olympics, I feel like people put too much meaning into the games instead of finding a bigger meaning outside of it, and my faith is always there, it's my foundation and what I fell back on. When things didn't go my way or I went through hard times, everything happened for a reason, and for some reason, it was supposed to happen that way.
Your family seems great. I love the Bounty commercial featuring you and your mom; it’s super cute! Can you talk a little about your parents and how much their support has meant to you over the years?
My family is the best. They've been there since day one. They've encouraged me and supported me in everything that I've done. From coming home on a bad day and having my dad make me french toast at 10 o'clock at night to try to help me feel better to having my mom in hearing someone saying a bad critique and being like 'Oh, I want to go talk to them right now.' Just having them there and supporting meant the world to me.
As an American who was once ranked the #1 gymnast in the world, what does it mean to you to know you were one of a select few to represent your country in the Olympic games?
It feels great to know I've worn my country's colors and made them proud. There's no greater feeling. I feel like all the thousands of hours of hard work and repetition really paid off and it's a great thing to have.
It is being reported that you are going to be traveling to London to show support for the USA Gymnastic Team. Looking back at your own experiences, emotions and the pressures to perform, can you give me a little insight as to what the members of our Olympic team are feeling right now given the close proximity of games?
Yeah. Well, right now they are elated because they're dream has come true. They're on the team and they're getting ready to head over, but they're very nervous. They've got so much pressure on them, being so young, 16, 17 years old and knowing your country is expecting you to bring home a medal is a lot of pressure to handle, but they are working hard and should be leaving for London soon and just getting ready. They're putting hour upon hour of hard work into it right now.
Not only are you an Olympic Gold Medalist, but you are a Dancing with the Stars champion as well. Your partner was Mark Ballas who was also paired up with Bristol Palin in season 11. I have interviewed Bristol on a couple occasions, and she told me how much she enjoyed being on the show and dancing alongside Mark. What was your favorite part about being on the show? As a competitor, was it fun to compete against other stars?
I loved Dancing, I loved the competition and rivalry of it, but honestly, in my season, we were so close. We were all like family, and we just wanted to have fun. I'd say the best part was that-- just making new friends and having a blast doing something we were all uncomfortable with.
Although you have led an amazing life and experienced so many great opportunities, you are still a typical girl who, like others, admits to being a tomboy, nerd and girly girl all wrapped into one. How do you find the necessary balance between your social life and public life?
It's hard, and I think it's getting harder and harder with the attention of the Olympics right now, but I've had the same group of friends that I've had since kindergarten, and they understand and kind of work around it, and we've learned to know what works and what doesn't. They're always there to cheer me up and travel with me and just have fun being silly.
You have such a large following and fan base. What does it mean to you when a little girl or boy comes up to you to request your autograph or a young gymnast tells you she wants to be just like you when she grows up?
It's scary, kind of, now that I have that responsibility, but I like it, you know? I've worked hard for that title and that honor, and I feel like, unfortunately, there are so many bad role models out there that maybe I can be a good one.
Finally, when all the autographs are signed and all the press is done for the day, what is your favorite thing to do to relax or just have fun?
Considering I am always on the go, I love nothing more than coming home and just curling up on the couch and watching a movie... best way to end the day.
Shawn, I couldn't agree more! My personal favorite? The Notebook
Check out this YouTube video via Tynsdale House Publishers, which gives you a sneak peak inside Shawn's book from Shawn herself:
Follow Shawn on Twitter @ShawnJohnson
Follow me on Twitter @RachelleFriberg