Former Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson is having a great year – she’s practically still celebrating her recent marriage to Andrew East of the Oakland Raiders. But it’s taken years for the athlete to find happiness.
In a short film released by I Am Second, Johnson tells a story of setback and heartbreak after earning the silver medal in the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.
In the film, Johnson says she was under immense pressure to win the gold at the 2008 Olympics following her win in 2007 as individual all-around World Champion, and having won the all-around at the 2008 Olympic Trials.
Unfortunately, after her biggest competitor Nastia Liukin scored higher, Johnson was left with a silver medal.
The athlete recalls the exact moment she knew she wouldn’t win gold, saying, “I remember looking at [Nastia Liukin’s] score and it was one point higher than the highest score I had conjured up in my mind. It was impossible for me to get a gold medal. I remember my heart just sinking.”
And when the gymnast arrived on the podium to accept her silver medal, she experienced another strange moment.
“The person who [gave me the medal] gave me a hug and told me, ‘I’m sorry,’ ” Johnson recalls. She remembers the feeling defeated in that moment, saying, “I was being given a silver medal at the Olympic games and being told I’m sorry. It was a validation of my heart that I had failed.
In her post-Olympic life, Johnson continued to struggle. Growing up in the spotlight meant being judged repeatedly for her appearance, and the criticism got worse after she joined the Season 8 cast of ABC’s Dancing With the Stars in 2009.
The gymnast continued to push herself further leading up to the 2012 Olympic Trials. While her training and sponsorship may have been in full swing, Johnson’s health and spirit had hit rock bottom with a training regimen of 40 hours a week and the ongoing pressure to perform.
Finally it became too much for the athlete, who credits a revelation at the gym for helping her let go of the pressure and return to personal health and body acceptance.
Johnson has since found peace and satisfaction with her new husband, and the two are looking forward to starting a family in the future.