PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Shawn Johnson took up gymnastics at the age of 3.
It was obvious from the start that she had serious talent. But it was her hard work and determination that carried her though countless competitions.
Eventually she landed a spot in the 2008 Winter Olympics, where she won several silver medals and a gold.
Years later, in 2012, Johnson announced she was retiring from gymnastics.
“I was kind of burnt out,” she said. “I feel like when you lose any heart in that sport, you kind of lose the success of it. But my body was falling apart. I had had two knee surgeries, I need a third one, I fractured a vertebrae in my back, I had arthritis already. It was a bunch of things.”
A day after the announcement, Johnson signed on to do “Dancing with the Stars” for a second time.
“It was like going back home,” she said. “It was a family. I kind of got to share my story of why I retired and let people get to know me a little more than just the gymnast on TV.”
In addition to “Dancing with the Stars,” Johnson has been busy working as a cheerleading commentator.
She also is in the process of opening a gym in her hometown of Des Moine, Iowa.
And there’s something else. Johnson travels to gyms around the country, talking to young people about gymnastics, fitness and healthy living.
She was recently at a gymnastics center in Wexford, where she talked about the P&G Gymnastics Championship, which is set to be held in Pittsburgh next year.
She didn’t take off without signing a few autographs.
“It’s so much fun getting to meet up and coming gymnasts and recreational gymnasts and elite gymnasts,” she said, “everybody, I can relate to them. I know their story and I see myself in them.”
Next up on Johnson’s agenda is attending college. She was just accepted to Vanderbilt University in Nashville.
“I want to major in sports psychology and dietetics,” she said. “So nutrition and the psychology side of my sport, I think it’s neat.”
Although Johnson says she misses the beam and bars, she is thrilled to have this new chapter in life.