I want you all to realize how many natural impulses I had to fight down to ask an Olympic gymnast about wedgies, but I did it. BECAUSE I LOVE YOU. (For those unfamiliar with Shawn Johnson, she’s a recently retired Olympic balance beam gold medalist, a floor exercise silver medalist, and a world champion. Oh. And she won Dancing with the Stars. And she’s only 20. We interviewed her at the P&G Family home in London.)
TheGloss: Do you have any tricks you use before you compete that you use to keep calm? It must be really nerve-racking before you go out there.
Shawn Johnson: I always used to talk to my dad. That’s kind of a must. I’d do that before every competition, whether it was in the morning or right before, I had to hear from him. And he always gave me reassurance that “we don’t care how you do! We just want you to have fun, and go out there. But I listen to music a lot. I know a lot of athletes listen to hard-core, get the adrenaline going stuff, and I never did. I always listened to very soothing music, just to keep myself calm.
TheGloss: Do you have any favorite songs?
SJ: I always listened to “Have a Little Faith in Me” by Mandy Moore. It was something about it. It got to me. I always listened to it before a competition.
ED NOTE: Let’s all listen now:
TG: Was there a time in your life when your life that you realized this was going to be a career? I did gymnastics growing up and it was pretty clear that it was not going to be one for me early on.
SJ: I think that’s only become apparent to me more recently. In 2008 I knew that I was being given so many opportunities to do stuff with gymnastics, but taking it in as a career and seeing it as my job only became something when I was doing during my comeback [in 2010, after tearing her ACL]. Earlier on, it was just for fun. I never thought it was going to take my anywhere. I just thought it was, you know, an after school activity.
TG: I know you’ve had some injuries, and you mentioned your body needed a rest. I’ve heard a lot about joint damage that gymnasts end up with. Is there anything you can do to prevent that? Do you worry about it?
SJ: It’s just a part of sports. It’s a very high impact sport you’re doing, and at such a young age when you’re growing and developing. So, it’s bound to happen. I don’t know that there’s any way to prevent it except for eating healthy, living healthy, doing rehab, doing physical therapy, taking care of yourself. But, again, that’s just part of the sport.
TG: You’re going on Dancing with the Stars again after this, but do you have plans for what you want to do after that?
SJ: I can’t even think about Dancing With the Stars now. I have no idea what I’m going to do afterwards. College is a big things for me, though. I’m sure as soon as Dancing With the Stars is over I’ll be doing SATs, and getting scores, and taking tours and really getting that plan down because it’s something I want to do.
TG: Do you know what you’d like to study?
SJ: I have a few ideas. I feel like I’ll come out with two different majors and minors. I have interests in all different fields. But I’ve always wanted to go into business to help what I do now. But also, just being in the sport I am, I’d love to study exercise physiology, and nutrition and health, and see how I could relate it back to all of this, and help my teammates .
TG: Do you end up making friends with a lot of people from different teams? What are the dynamics of that like? Do you tend to see them as competition?
SJ: Honestly, we see each other as friends and family. It’s almost like as soon as you see [other athletes], you almost have a common connection. When you get to such an elite level you’re kind of alienated from everybody around you, because you’re on such a different platform. Or people put you on a different platform. But when I’m with all the other Olympians we connect that way, so it doesn’t matter what country or what sport, we all get along and fall under the same umbrella. I’ve had friends that I’ve had since 2008 that I think I’ll have for the rest of my life.
TG: Do you ever miss having a normal teenage experience? You’re doing this at such a young age, and are forced to be professional at an age when as a lot of people are being encouraged to make their mistakes.
SJ: It is a different lifestyle growing up in the public eye and not having that so-called freedom to make mistakes, and learn things the hard way, and be a normal teenager. But it also is a blessing. I get to be with a community of very strong individuals and growing up faster I kind of realize things that others don’t. And I’ve been blessed with a really good opportunity. I do miss it, though. I wish I had a little more. But I’d say it’s a pretty decent trade.
TG: In terms of that trade, what part of this experience have you loved most? What have been the most amazing experiences?
SJ: Being able to travel the world. To meet so many phenomenally interesting people, and be a part of things like this. It’s a dream job.
TG: I know our readers wanted to know if you get any say in the way you’re styled during the competition.
SJ: People kind of pick which outfits we wear on a daily basis, but we have a say in our hair and make-up. I mean they don’t want you to come out in braided pigtails or something, but you can be creative and unique in that way.
TG: How do you feel about the uniforms?
I loved the leotards this year. I feel like they’ve taken a more simplistic route. It’s just gorgeous fabric and gorgeous design of jewels and I think the more simply they are the more comfortable they are, and easier to compete in.
TG: Do they give you wedgies?
SJ: Wedgies! Yes, they’re bound to happen. But they kind of are leotard’s design is supposed to be kind of a second skin, so they’ve kind of perfected that.