Still Beaming in Retirement

Ex-Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson urges kids to explore ways to enjoy exercising


Shawn Johnson (in red) poses with kids about to participate in drills and games.

Gymnast Shawn Johnson didn’t stand much taller than the kids she greeted at the District’s King-Greenleaf Recreation Center in Southwest last week — she’s just 4 feet 9 — but that doesn’t mean they don’t look up to her.

So she made sure to emphasize that the most important reason to exercise isn’t to win gold medals. “I’m going up there and saying I’m retired but I’m doing this for fun,” explains the 20-year-old, who announced less than two weeks ago that a nagging knee injury was ending her gymnastics career.

What exactly is it that she’s doing for fun? That’s still a little up in the air. “I’m torn between wanting to train seven hours a day and being a normal person,” Johnson says.

She’ll definitely be making time to play tennis with her dad and go rock climbing with friends, two favorite activities that were tricky to schedule when she was training. “If I had six hours to spare before practice, I didn’t want to tire myself out,” she says. “Now I can tire myself out until I pass out.”

And a marathon and a triathlon are on her bucket list for sure — along with cheerleading, at least as a spectator during the London Games this summer.

Johnson plans to reserve some of her hooting and hollering, however, for the kids she hopes to inspire through Coca-Cola’s Get the Ball Rolling program. Although some may follow in her footsteps and commit to a sport, she says she’s just as thrilled to see playgrounds filled with games of capture the flag and red rover. “It’s about finding something you love,” Johnson says. “Not getting on a treadmill.”

Vicky Hallett is a MisFits columnist and the Fit editor for Express.

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