2008 Olympic Gold Medalist on Balance Beam. Thought I'd answer questions given the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Games. Planning on jumping on for 2-3 hours! https://twitter.com/ShawnJohnson/status/1243233464813596672 Thank you for all the questions! This was fun :)

Comments: 264 • Responses: 76  • Date: 

kcincinnati136 karma

As an elite gymnast that continued to do public school, how rare was that? Did you feel different than the long-time homeschooling gymnasts?

Shawnjohnsoneast219 karma

I felt so different! It was a little isolating while i was competing but I love that I paved that option for future gymnasts. I don't think elite gymnasts, given their age, should have to be forced to sacrifice all childhood moments in order to succeed.

markrichtsspraytan80 karma

Hi Shawn! Regarding the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics to 2021, what is your opinion on the eligibility status of gymnasts born in 2005? Should they now be considered eligible for this Olympics since they will be seniors/16 years old when the competition is actually held? Or do you think it would be more fair to the current seniors to keep the eligibility cutoff date the same as it would be if the Olympics were still held in 2020?

And on a more fun note, what is your favorite leotard you've ever worn in competition? Have any past leotard choice regrets?

Shawnjohnsoneast139 karma

I have gone back and forth on this quite a few times. I actually don't think they should be eligible. Because we are continuing on as if these are still the 2020ne games we need to keep the rules and regulations the same. It's such an unfortunate dilemma to negotiate but I think it needs to stay as is.

Shawnjohnsoneast56 karma

OH! and favorite leotard..... I actually loved the leotards from Pan Ams 2011! There was a dark magenta one that I was obsessed with!

Wiggy_000078 karma

Hi Shawn! Totally fangirling right now. Given the controversy about the scoring for Simone Biles’ newest moves and the ever present idea of not rewarding dangerous moves but wanting to see the sport progress, where do you see the sport in 5 or 10 years?

Shawnjohnsoneast168 karma

I hope it changes and awards the difficulty. Simone is in a league all her own right now and is paving the way for the sport. If she isn't awarded for it, it discourages the sport from growing. In 5-10 years I want to see the sport encourage athletes to get creative, push the difficulty of the sport. I felt like the code from 2012-2016 encouraged athletes to all look the same, attempt the same skills, and be judged solely on execution of the same routine... and thats boring. Simone is pushing the sport where I think it should go.

djmikec52 karma

What else do you think needs to be done to make right the wrongs of Nassar and the people who aided the coverup at this point?

Shawnjohnsoneast90 karma

This is a hard question because part of me wants everyone to move on so all of the survivors can heal but then again if all of the survivors don't feel validated then I want to see a thorough investigation that explains exactly who and how the wrong doings were allowed so everyone can move forward with peace and closure. I think we have moved forward and made changes that are doing so much good for the current athletes but we skipped over the important step of dissecting how everything went wrong so that the current and past athletes can build the trust they need in the new organization.

LuciferJup48 karma

Hello. How difficult this postponement will be for older athletes whose this is their final chance to achieve an olympic distiction?

Shawnjohnsoneast67 karma

I can't imagine what these athletes are going through mentally and physically right now. It will be hard for athletes to restructure training and maintain their level for another year which could mean entirely different athletes competing on teams next year then would have originally made teams this year.

ForgetfulDoryFish43 karma

Hi Shawn! What is your favorite memory from competing at the Olympics?

Shawnjohnsoneast161 karma

Considering I was only 16 years old... i remember laughing with my teammates on the competition floor about how we wished we had a Harry Potter wand so we could cast spells on the judges

Shawnjohnsoneast18 karma

Considering I was only 16, I remember laughing on the competition floor with my teammates about how we wished we hands Harry Potter's wand so we could cast spells on the judges

kristiWithAni35 karma

Which was more nerve wracking- competing in the Olympics or entering the hospital before giving birth ?

Shawnjohnsoneast85 karma

Hahahaha actually the hospital. I knew what I was walking into at the Olympics... I had NO idea what I was walking into with birth!

LilahLibrarian31 karma

I remember you were famous for "only" training 4 hours a day. (most elite gymnasts train 6+ hours) how did that work with you and Chow?

Shawnjohnsoneast90 karma

Most 6+ hour training regimes allow for breaks and more stretched out training regimes. Our 4 hour training was a straight sprint. We could break for quick water breaks but that was about it. My coach believed since we were "kids" we should spend as little of time as possible in the gym as we could to achieve our goals however it was with an understanding that if we did that the hours spent in the gym had to be incredibly productive.

kcincinnati29 karma

Is it annoying that some people only think of the Olympics when it comes to gymnastics, ignoring the World meets and all the other meets that happen?

Shawnjohnsoneast37 karma

Haha yes and no. Since gymnastics is an Olympic sport you kind of get into the sport knowing that in order to be seen on the "Olympic" and world wide stage you have to get to the Olympics. I definitely wish gymnasts had ore recognition for the hard work and blood, sweat, and tears they put in during the other 3 years leading up to the games but I also wish that for every other Olympic sport out there.

Firelord_Iroh13 karma

I mean to be fair it’s the same thing for a lot of events at the Olympics including Swimming

Shawnjohnsoneast14 karma

Sure is!

bannocknsaltpork28 karma

Do you wear your gold medal around the house some days? Or is it in a display case tucked aside forever?

Shawnjohnsoneast38 karma

Hahaha I have yet to do that but you never know with the quarantine. They are in a safety deposit box so might be hard to do right now.

katieknj27 karma

If you could do it again, would you still try and come back for 2012?

Shawnjohnsoneast90 karma

I mean, competing at the Olympics is the greatest honor in the world, but it was because I didn't compete in 2012 that I met my now husband! So... probably not

asdelvo24 karma

Do you still have contact with Chow and your old teammates? He seems like such a nice coach!

Shawnjohnsoneast48 karma

I do! I actually called him the day I gave birth and he was SO excited. Still talk to my teammates almost every week.

dogdriving23 karma

What does it feel like to be the best in the world at something? It's a very foreign concept to me. Like, does it feel like you are? Can you tell? This might be a weird question and perhaps I'm not articulating it correctly, but I really just can't fathom the idea of literally being the best in the world at something at some point in time.

Shawnjohnsoneast38 karma

Haha I think I get what you are asking and it feels foreign. Just like you said. I feel so far removed from it that when I now watch gymnastics I am in awe and have to be reminded that i once was capable of that. It's strange.

b0n3rjamz23 karma

What did you really think of the Karolyi’s when you were training at the ranch? Did your opinion of them/their methods change as you reached adulthood?

Shawnjohnsoneast66 karma

I respected them. I will say though, I had THE most protective coach in the world with Coach Chow so I honestly don't have much interaction with them to even look back on now as an adult. My coach has strict policies with me that entailed never talking to other coaches or staff without him there. I think with everything that has come to light, I have a harder time digesting it all as an adult and question my adolescent mind.

stitchescutfigures23 karma

Hi Shawn! Thanks for doing this AMA! I’m curious, have you seen Chellsie Memmel’s adult gymnastics clips?

I wrote to you as a little girl in 2007 and you were so kind to write me back not once, but twice - handwritten letter and autographed photos that are still proudly framed in our guest room today.

Also wanted to add that I had a miscarriage shortly before you did and am grateful to you for speaking out about it. Also grateful that we are now both blessed with beautiful babies. ❤️

Shawnjohnsoneast30 karma

Chellsie is still killing it!!! Its amazing.

Glad that meant so much to you :)


WIIspectME23 karma

Loved watching you back in ‘08! Gymnastics is unique in the sense that your peak is really young. How did you cope with the idea of growing up and being the best in the world at something? Also, what’s your favorite behind the scenes memory with your Olympic teammates.

Shawnjohnsoneast55 karma

I don't want to speak for all gymnasts but for me it felt different. I was kid doing an after school activity that ended at the Olympics haha I didn't really realize the weight of that until years later. I will say though, reaching the pinnacle of your sport by 16 makes it hard to grow up afterwards. It sets a very hard standard to maintain and can challenge your identity.

tenniskitten22 karma

Now that the world is more aware of Eating Disorders in general, do you feel that gymnastics puts less pressure on gymnasts to have a low body weight, or do still feel that pressure is present?

Shawnjohnsoneast33 karma

I actually feel like the pressure is lifting! It was such an old school old ways sport and with ALL of the drastic changes going on in the sport, I think "health" in all aspects of the word are being focused on more and encouraged.

AmeriMan221 karma

I remember hearing a rumor that the olympics are fun but most of the athletes are just having wild amounts of sex during the off time. Like massive origies. Can you clarify?

Shawnjohnsoneast91 karma

Well, I was a minor at the Olympics and had armed guards that stood outside our apartment doors and traveled with us everywhere haha have no idea!

LilahLibrarian21 karma

Where there any crazy skills you trained but never competed?

Shawnjohnsoneast32 karma

Oh yes! I trained and played around with a ton of different crazy and fun skills but, again, never competed any because the code would have either discouraged them or deducted me for competing them. I would try to list them but I honestly don't remember the names haha. I played around with twisting release moves on bars, sideways double flips on floor, half rotations with roll outs on floor, and 5 skill series on beam.

nlp30621 karma

Hi Shawn! Thanks for doing this! I hope you and your family are doing well! What was your favorite part of being involved in gymnastics? Would it be something you would want your daughter involved in?

Shawnjohnsoneast52 karma

I loved everything that gymnastics taught me. It taught me not to stray away from failure (you literally fall on your face every single day before ever standing on a podium), to have the courage to defy gravity, to work as a team even though its an individual performance, discipline, respect.... all of it. I would love for my daughter to be in gymnastics.

jammy106620 karma

What was your meal regime before competing in the Olympic games? How many calories a day?

Shawnjohnsoneast36 karma

I ate a very lean diet that consisted of oatmeal, fruits, veggies, and lean meats/eggs. I stayed away from too many carbs.

Shawnjohnsoneast92 karma

It's ok. I had a hard time with these questions when I was younger but I've been so educated now that I actually love talking about it. I was unhealthy at the Olympics. I did not eat enough calories but learned that afterwards and have been able to now help so many others because of it.

Norgeroff19 karma

What color is your toothbrush?

Shawnjohnsoneast23 karma

Haha purple

Whatsinthabox18 karma

My girlfriend is a former gymnast and currently is a newly graduated occupational therapist. She adores you and your amazing family. If you were to choose a career outside of being a gymnast what would it be?

Shawnjohnsoneast24 karma

I really wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon before gymnastics and everything that followed. I got to shadow a couple surgeries and it was so impressive to watch!

weddingdiaries15 karma

Do you think you have a good body image now? If so, what did you do to get there? As a retired Olympian myself, it's been hard to truly love my bigger, less fit body.

Shawnjohnsoneast25 karma

I have struggled so much with this for so long. I am in a better place now, and I think my daughter helped me get there. Just realizing that the little insecurities I have might bleed into her view of herself encourages me to look at the positive. Also, being busy with work/being gives me less time to think about those things.

What sport?! Cheering you on with this...

sianned14 karma

What do you love talking about, but often don't get the opportunity to?

Shawnjohnsoneast35 karma

My coaches :) They are the best human beings and coaches in the world. I appreciate them more and more every sinlge day now as a mother and adult.

LasagnaFarts9214 karma

My friend and I would fight over who got to marry you back in 2008. My only question is who do you choose. Me or him?

Shawnjohnsoneast106 karma

"lasagnafarts92" makes me think its probably him

fliccolo13 karma

Thank you for doing this AMA! In the skating world there is a huge movement of Adult skaters who have built an entire competitive circuit track for skaters who have aged out of the sport or for those who love learning the sport as a adult with no previous experience. In Gymnastics it seems that it's much harder to find classes that teach apparatus other than basic tumbling for Adults. Do you think that there is room in the Gymnastic community for more participation from adult beginners/those who are returning to the Gym? Why or why not?

Shawnjohnsoneast13 karma

I would love to see this! I think Crossfit has somewhat taken on this role as there are a lot of skills incorporated

skinsballr13 karma

Hey Shawn - thanks for doing this AMA.

Now that you have a baby girl in Drew and a golden retriver in Nash, which has been the hardest to deal with on a daily basis - Drew now or Nash (when you first got the golden retriever)?

Shawnjohnsoneast37 karma

Oh my gosh hahaha great question. Puppies are hard but so are babies. Puppies are difficult but I think babies top it. There is just such an added sense of responsibility with a baby. Puppies can already walk... babies, well they are just mush.

Ty__Webb12 karma

Would you rather have your gold medal or be able to get things down from the top shelf?

Edit: for all you downvoters you obviously didn’t grow up with any gymnasts. Running joke on being short with everyone I’ve hung out with.

LilahLibrarian5 karma


Shawnjohnsoneast62 karma

I just stack my medals and stand on them to get things down ;)

keep_slayin12 karma

Hi Shawn! Thanks for doing this. I have 2 questions. When was the last time you did a backflip? Do you still practice flipping/floor?

Shawnjohnsoneast34 karma

Last time I did a backflip was about 3 weeks ago and no, I do not still practice. I will go into a gymnastics gym a couple times a year to "play" and still see if I can flip.

b0n3rjamz12 karma

Which skill took you the most time to learn?

Shawnjohnsoneast23 karma

Oh my gosh the "kip".

jpan0810 karma

How tolling was it on your body? Any aches and pains?

Shawnjohnsoneast18 karma

It definitely leaves it's mark on you as an adult and doesn't feel great to go through but was worth every ounce of it.

thebeautifulellen9 karma

Hi Shawn! What is your favorite movie and why?

Shawnjohnsoneast26 karma

hmmm... as cliche as it is probably Miracle. I remember watching it as a team before the Olympics.

ContainzStuff9 karma

Shawn! How's the baby? What's your favourite skill and why? What are your views on rhythmic gymnastics?

Shawnjohnsoneast25 karma

She is amazing! She's scooting around me in her little go cart right now. Favorite skill was always a double pike on floor. It was always easy for me so it made it fun to perform.

Rhythmic... I use to DREAMMMMMM of being that flexible. #respect

passthebroccoli8 karma

What was your transition to “normal life” like when you retired from gymnastics? When I quit the sport I found it incredibly hard to move on, it felt like I had given up my passion (and I also hated how quick I fell out of shape!)

Shawnjohnsoneast14 karma

It really took me about 4 years to fully transition out of sport. Leaving athletics is never easy, no matter what level you've reached. And I think the farther you go in your sport, sometimes the harder it is to find something else after.

flaconn8 karma

Are there any specific home workouts you recommend while quarantined?

Shawnjohnsoneast27 karma

To keep yourself interested and not bored I would look up on youtube short 20 minute workouts and do a different one every day. Try yoga, try using a gallon of milk for a weight, try run a flight of stairs 20 times, or watch a movie and every time they say a certain word do a burpee.

Mikedabest8 karma

How would one go about getting a date with Aly Raisman? Help a brother out.

Shawnjohnsoneast20 karma

heard she's big into hot wings

tumblrmustbedown7 karma

Hi Shawn! I love following your little family on Instagram - I hope that’s not weird to say haha. Do you and Andrew have any guilty pleasures TV shows? Anything you’re binging right now during quarantine?

Shawnjohnsoneast10 karma

:) Blacklist, New Girl, and Sherlock are our go tos- what about you?!

cramzable7 karma

You once replied to a tweet of mine about French toast!

Was there a moment during your gold medal performance that you knew you had it locked? Or were you unsure until the scores?

Shawnjohnsoneast18 karma

I will always reply about french toast

I didnt know I won until I saw my name pop up on the board!

picklegangriseup6 karma

Hi Shawn! Thanks for doing this! I’ve moved into coaching after retiring from the sport. I’m wondering what you think the best qualities of a good gymnastics coach are?

Shawnjohnsoneast10 karma

Patience, understanding, make the sport fun!, and knowing when to push/not push the ahtlete

pickacoolname6 karma

Why is your kitchen counter so clean?

Shawnjohnsoneast29 karma

uber eats

belaveri19916 karma

Hi Shawn, as someone who’s observed athletics for a while I’m curious about you’re insight into the movement of the Olympics from 20-21. How far in advance do you start a fitness regiment prior to an event and how do you alter it for an event postponement?

Shawnjohnsoneast16 karma

it really is a 4 year cycle. a lot of athletes take the year after the olympics off and then progressively train there body to peak at the 4 year mark, however that looks in your sport. The fact that athletes have been training to peak in just 4 months from now and now have to delay that to an unknown date in the future is a tough problem

Subgraphic6 karma

How much freaky deaky stuff happens at the Olympic village?

Shawnjohnsoneast43 karma

we ate snickers bars and that felt like the wildest thing I'd ever done

Subgraphic8 karma

Congratulations, you just won your gold medal!!

Shawnjohnsoneast10 karma

haha THANK YOU!!

Peter_Camp456 karma

You’ve seen teammate Sam P. compete for UCLA, but which university would you have competed for if you went NCAA?

Shawnjohnsoneast15 karma

I would have loved to go to Stanford!

stutter-rap6 karma

Hi Shawn! I love your gymnastics, you were so fun to watch. Did you ever get scared about anything you had to do (e.g. being in front of a crowd, difficult moves), and if so, did you do anything in particular to get past that?

Shawnjohnsoneast23 karma

I got scared ALL of the time but I learned how to channel the fear into adrenaline. My coach always taught me that fear was just nerves, nerves meant you felt purpose and passion towards what you were doing, and that meant you had a reason to compete.

cap_oupascap6 karma

What do you think you’ll do with your medals in the future? I saw you keep them in a safety deposit box right now, is that the plan forever?

Shawnjohnsoneast11 karma

maybe give them away at a charity event?!

geraintm5 karma

Amazon and other content creators are doing a lot of behind the scenes series on sports. Would you have liked to have had yourself followed around, would you watch one made now on the current US team?

Shawnjohnsoneast13 karma

I think when I was competing it would have been slightly intrusive and hard to focus, but things are so much different these days. Social media wasnt really a thing in 2008, nowadays people are so used to cameras I dont know if it affects these athletes.

I hope the producers are considerate to the competitors!

triplej9055 karma

Have you started competing in anything else to fill your need of competition?

Shawnjohnsoneast27 karma

i will beat anyone in ping pong. just say the words

sullivan99995 karma

What does a person do after winning a gold medal as a teenager? Do they just apply for desk jobs and then end up spending 40 years in a cube like the rest of us?

Shawnjohnsoneast26 karma

no. they apply for desk jobs and end up spending 50 years in a cubicle

gymnastelephant5 karma

What was your favorite place that you traveled to while competing? And how much time did you have to explore each city/country while there?

Shawnjohnsoneast6 karma

I loved Brazil! The fans down there were so into the sport it was a blast. Unfortunately we were in the gym (practicing or competing) or hotel room most of the time so we didnt get to experience much of the places we went to.

gymnastelephant5 karma

Do you watch elite (or NCAA) meets when they are on TV? Who do you think would have made the olympic team this year if it was to be held as scheduled?

Shawnjohnsoneast14 karma

yes I still LOVE watching gymnastics. simone,...

finnawokefam5 karma

Hi Shawn! This is so cool that you are doing this, you are my all time favourite gymnast and I looked up to you so much when I was younger! How would you explain the reasoning as to why gymnasts peak at such a young age? Also, is there a lot of drama in the elite gymnastics community or are gymnasts generally supportive of one another?

Shawnjohnsoneast24 karma

I think gymnasts peak early partially because of the mental portion of the sport. The older people get, typically the more they realize how dangerous flipping on a 4 inch beam is and that fear/doubt prevents success. Also, its extremely difficult to continue competing in gymnastics and not get injured at some point

Spirit-of-Adventure5 karma

If Olympic gold medalists had to make an acceptance speech, what do you think you would have said?

Shawnjohnsoneast16 karma

Would want to do something like Robin Williams..

"Most of all, I want to thank my father, up there, the man who when I said I wanted to be an actor, he said, 'Wonderful. Just have a back-up profession like welding.'" 

Bryanssong4 karma

What part of your butter sculpture would you use on your Pumpkin Bread?

Shawnjohnsoneast4 karma

hahaha. wow. that was wild. i think "butter fingers" is the most accurate part of that art piece

gablerr4 karma

Hi Shawn! What’s your favorite breakfast food?

Shawnjohnsoneast9 karma

My go to is toast with butter, eggs, and a little bit of cheese if I feel like treating myself

cjk27934 karma

Do all the olympians get hella fucked up afterwards on the gold medal winners dimes?

Shawnjohnsoneast15 karma

no but maybe this should be a thing

b0n3rjamz4 karma

If you had done NCAA, which university team would you have wanted to be on?

Shawnjohnsoneast19 karma

I REALLY wanted to go to Stanford- but grew up an Iowa fan :)

Scoot-r4 karma

What’s your favorite recipe?

-eliminado4 karma


Shawnjohnsoneast6 karma

yes!! try to do it once a week

thegreatgazoo4 karma

How do gymnasts practice new moves on the balance beam without injuring themselves badly?

Shawnjohnsoneast17 karma

There are a lot of ways to practice a skill BEFORE actually jumping on the beam. A line that is flat on the mat, then a low beam, then the high beam

plskillmelmao4 karma

What gymnasts did you look up to in your adolescence?

Shawnjohnsoneast12 karma

Mary Lou Retton was/is MY HERO

samgash3 karma

How much do you love the built in fridge?

Shawnjohnsoneast4 karma

looks great, but same as your average fridge

swingthedoc3 karma

Hey Shawn! I met you like 13 years ago swimming at a Prairie Life Fitness outside Des Moines, Iowa. What's your workout routine like these days? Still Olympic or more low-key?

Shawnjohnsoneast8 karma

Love Prairie Life!! Definitely more low key especially after the baby. I work out maybe 4-5 times a week, one of those is yoga, one of those is cardio, one of those is HIIT, and one of those is more strength

neetoday3 karma

Hi Shawn, thanks for the AMA. How much of your gymnastic ability have you been able to maintain in your adult life? Can you still do flips & such?

Shawnjohnsoneast8 karma

We went to the gym last month and I was still able to do some basics. I stay off the balance beam though!!

BasicBrownQueen3 karma

Shawn!! I watched you in the 2008 games when I was 10 and then pretty much saw your role change into being more of a mentor and a commentator for sport. Who has been your favorite gymnast to mentor or just become friend with?

Shawnjohnsoneast10 karma

Its been so fun. Gabby, Jordyn, Laurie, Aly, Simone. Its been fun to see them each grow up and crush it in their own way

garveylawrence3 karma

Do you ever slap anyone with your gold medal when they get lippy?

Shawnjohnsoneast25 karma

usually nun chuck them w 2 silvers

Floridaman90003 karma


Shawnjohnsoneast4 karma

Mary Lou!

Joeybits2 karma

This question comes from my girlfriend, who is an ex-gymnast. How do you continue to stay flexible? What does your workout routine look like now?

Shawnjohnsoneast5 karma

I do some yoga, cardio, HIIT, and strength.

I dont stretch as much as I should :)

TinyTitanDragon2 karma

What is your favorite event to watch (as a spectator)?

Shawnjohnsoneast5 karma

At the London games I loved watching basketball!

FFalcon_Boi2 karma

Hi Shawn! Now that you are probably in quarantine, do you still do some of your old gymnastics exercises to stay fit? Because I assume that must be very valuable to you.

Shawnjohnsoneast8 karma

I rarely do gymnastics now. Handstand holds/walks are pretty much it for me these days. I try to stay active doing other things now.. running, yoga, etc