Shawn knew last year when she failed to make the World team that her comeback was going to be much harder than she expected. With Nationals just days away, and Olympic trials at the end of the month, Shawn says it was time to face reality.
“Unfortunately my road has been cut a little short. It’s become obvious my knee isn’t going to allow me to be in gymnastics.”
Shawn injured her knee skiing a year and a half ago. The accident inspired her to return to gymnastics, but two surgeries later it’s also the reason her career is over.
“It wasn`t easy. We expected that injury coming back but it hasn’t been easy to deal with physically and mentally,” says Liang Chow, Shawn’s coach.
Shawn’s a tough cookie. You don’t earn four Olympics medals without spunk. But even Shawn’s training mates say her knee wasn’t getting better.
“She was always in so much pain but you could see. She tries to hide it so hard,” says Sierra Hassel.
Hassel says Shawn is an inspiration in the gym. She can’t imagine gymnastics without her bubbly idol.
“It was really sad. I`m gonna miss her so much but she`s so amazing and I still look up to her.”
And Shawn can’t imagine life without the sport that’s been her entire life, either.
“This is the first time in my life I will wake up and gymnastics is not in my life anymore.”
However, Shawn says now is the perfect time to retire. An old pro, she knows when to step out of the spotlight and pass the torch on to a new generation of Olympians.
“I remember in 2008 how intense the pressure was getting. The weight of girls who worked their entire life for this. I’m now gracefully retiring and bowing out and I’ll be the biggest cheerleader in the stands is what I’ll be focusing on.”
The Valley High grad has her own video game, commercials, was crowned winner of Dancing With the Stars, and her book comes out on Tuesday. Coach Chow knows Iowa’s golden girl is so much more than just gymnastics.
“In real life she`s a real winner.”
The president of USA gymnastics said it best – Shawn Johnson could run for political officer here in Iowa and win in a land slide by both parties. Shawn says right now, politics is not in her future, but she will be traveling to London to cheer on the USA Women’s Gymnastics team and plans on starting college sometime next year.