What You Didn’t Know About Shawn Johnson – Nicki Swift

In 2008, Shawn Johnson captured the media’s attention when she represented the United States in gymnastics at the Beijing Olympic games. The then-16-year-old won gold in balance beam, silver in floor exercise and all-around, and helped Team U.S.A. take the silver in the team event. She followed up her success at the games the following year and took home the Mirrorball Trophy on Dancing With the Stars. Johnson attempted to make a comeback at the 2012 London Olympics, but retired shortly before Olympic trials began due to a knee injury.

Despite retiring at such a young age, Johnson did not rest on her laurels and continued to inspire fans and supporters through her philanthropic efforts and roles as a businesswoman, wife, and mother. While Johnson has lived her life in the public eye for so long, there’s a lot you might not know about her. Luckily, we’ve rounded up some interesting facts about the former gymnast that you should know.

Shawn Johnson started gymnastics at a young age

Like many famed gymnasts, Shawn Johnson started gymnastics at 3 years old. Johnson’s mom remarked in an interview with the Des Moines Storytellers Project in 2017 that she had too much energy at home and they signed her up for classes “literally out of desperation” (via the Des Moines Register).

She added, “At home she was a terror, and she was a danger to herself. She would stack her toys and try to get to a higher level, and it was awful. So we put her in this little gymnastics class, and it was just immediately a hit for her.”

When they signed her up for those gymnastic classes, Johnson’s parents never thought she’d become an Olympic gymnast — let alone win gold. They “just wanted her to be somewhere where she was safe, and somebody else could corral it and somebody else could be responsible for it.”

It’s safe to say that the Johnsons don’t have any regrets about putting her in the gym at such a young age given all their daughter has accomplished on the international stage.

Shawn Johnson is a published author

Retiring from gymnastics allowed Shawn Johnson to explore different opportunities, including publishing her own books. Her first book, titled Shawn Johnson, Olympic Champion: Stories Behind the Smile, was published in 2008 and detailed her early days of training. Johnson described writing the book to Justine as “kind of like a picture book.”

She released her second book, a memoir titled Winning Balance: What I’ve Learned So Far About Love, Faith, and Living Your Dreams, in 2012 and it became a New York Times bestseller. Reflecting on the writing process for Winning Balance, Johnson told CBN that it was “therapeutic,” because she could relive “all the journals and diary entries” when she was 15 years old. “I wanted to relate to people,” she said of her decision to write it.

After releasing two memoir-style books, Johnson tried her hand at fiction with the release of The Flip Side in 2016. The YA novel followed a teenage gymnast’s journey into capturing gold at the Olympics. Sound familiar? That’s because the book drew inspiration from Johnson’s own journey as an elite gymnast.

Shawn Johnson's husband is also an athlete

Following her retirement and Hollywood commitments, Shawn Johnson decided to head back to school and enrolled at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. It was there that she also met the love of her life, Andrew East.

Like Johnson, East is also an athlete. He played football at Vanderbilt University and had stints in the NFL. East came into Johnson’s life at the right time as she was struggling with an eating disorder and revealed that his support encouraged her to eat healthier, according to People.

East proposed to Johnson in 2015 and they tied the knot in 2016. Johnson told FIV that she knew East was the one after a few dates while her family also approved of their relationship from the get go. Terri, Johnson’s mother, called East an “absolutely unbelievably wonderful man” who she knows “is going to take good care of [her daughter]” (via the Des Moines Register).

Shawn Johnson loves being a mom

As an athlete, Shawn Johnson had suffered through many injuries and pains, but nothing could compare to the devastation after suffering a miscarriage in 2017. Johnson told People in 2019 that she “felt so sad and guilty” and like she “had done something wrong.” Johnson blamed herself because of the strain she’d put on her body as an elite gymnast — from rigorous training schedules to counting her calorie intake. “I couldn’t help but think I did enough damage to my body at a young age that it was almost, like, payback,” she confessed.

Johnson and East further opened up about the loss in 2018 in a YouTube video for I Am Second. Johnson said that the miscarriage “was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through,” but that she and her husband relied on faith to carry them through the darkest times.

Two years after going through a parent’s worst nightmare, the couple found happiness by welcoming their first child. “You are our everything,” Johnson captioned a 2019 Instagram picture of daughter Drew Hazel East. 

Even with all the stresses of parenting, Johnson would not have it any other way and would be open to expanding her family. She told Us Weekly in 2020 that she’s “gotten the greenlight” to have a baby and would love it at “anytime.”

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