Shawn Johnson


That’s how a lot of the world saw Shawn Johnson in 2008. She was supposed to be the next great American gymnast and take home a handful of gold medals at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Instead, she won one and mostly played runner-up, losing the coveted all-around title to teammate Nastia Lukin.

“I felt like I had failed the world. I felt like since the world saw me as nothing else, that if I failed at being a gymnast, I had failed at being a human being.”

That feeling was seared into her memory when the person presenting her a silver medal at the games leaned in and said two words, “I’m sorry.”

That disappointment motivated her to win “Dancing with the Stars” the next year, and fueled a comeback attempt for the 2012 London Olympics. But soon the weight of perfection and the expectations to be, look, and act like everyone wanted her to took a toll.

She found freedom one day while preparing to practice her balance beam routine. That’s when something —  or rather someone — spoke to her. 

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