Shawn Johnson: 'Going to London is bittersweet'

Gold-winning gymnast and special correspondent Shawn Johnson reflects on attending her first Olympic Games since retiring in June. 

I couldn't be more excited to be in London covering the Olympics. Still, attending my first Opening Ceremony in London as a non-athlete is bittersweet. Here's what happens when you retire from Olympic competition: The first week is awful. It’s like hitting a brick wall. Every decision you’ve ever made pretty much your entire life has been based on your sport and getting to the Olympics: what you eat, what you drink, when you go to sleep. It’s everything. And when you no longer have that, you kind of feel lost.

Within a few weeks, you start thinking about what you want to do and where you want to go. You kind of get separation anxiety, and wonder what you’re going to end up doing. You start missing it.

But for me, opportunities started coming right off the bat, which made the transition a lot easier. In London, I'm going to be the first-ever special correspondent. That means I'll be blogging for TODAY in London, doing behind-the-scenes reporting and sharing my unique perspective on the Games.

It's a good thing I'll be busy, because it's going go be hard sitting in the stands! I'm still the kind of person that wants to be active and down there competing. 

I think it’s going to be the little things that’ll get to me the most.

Wearing a credential that says "media" instead of "athlete," for example. Trying to get into the Olympic village, and having to get a guest pass. I'll be like, "No, I’m an athlete!" and they'll say, "No, you were." I’ll forever be an athlete. But it’s kind of having that dreaded word “former” or “ex” before my name that makes me cringe. I never thought that day was going to come.

Ryan Towe Photography

One thing that's been fun: Packing. I'm bringing nice clothes, like heels for events, and running shoes. As a competitor, I wouldn’t have packed any of that — just leotards, tennis shoes and warm-ups. Street clothes take up a lot more room! A leotard takes up nothing, and we weren't allowed to bring more than one bag anyway. Now, I've got two: one for my shoes and one for my clothes. 

For the first time ever, I'll be able to check out other events that we weren’t allowed to watch when we were competing. I'll be at opening and closing ceremonies, in the audience, watching the gymnastics, of course, and I’ve got tickets to the gold medal basketball game and women’s volleyball.

This will also be my first time in London! I want to see the London Eye, and get a Buckingham palace guard to smile. I’m kind of a nerd that way; I love visiting touristy sites. Any free minute I get, I’m going to be walking around.

And if I meet Will and Kate, I'm going to ask: Where's her favorite place to shop? And what's the queen like? Is she really intense? 

But most of all, I'm going to be watching all of my Olympian friends — even if it's just on TV — and I'll be the one cheering the loudest.

Tell me: What do you want to know about the Olympics? Ask me your questions in the comments and I'll do my best to answer them! 

More: Gold star: Medalist Shawn Johnson joins Olympic team 
Follow Shawn on Twitter
Shawn Johnson on her new book, 'Winning Balance'
London eyes: Behind the scenes with TODAY staffers
Seacrest: If Kim Kardashian was an Olympian, she'd play...

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Hi Shawn - what is the most exciting venue you have seen yet? Also, are you going to add pictures with all your blogs?

  • 4 votes
Reply#1 - Thu Jul 26, 2012 1:46 PM EDT

Oops, didn’t know about the retirement (my bust)…

How many leg raises would you do during an average workout (set’s and reps type of thing), yes please…

  • 2 votes
Reply#2 - Thu Jul 26, 2012 2:01 PM EDT
Comment author avatarJonas Franquetvia Facebook

Thanks for the first blogpost! You must feel kind of 'weird' now... Seeiing such a big event, where you were the star of in 2008, from the other side.

Do you think the concurrence in gymnastics between the USA and China will be even bigger than in 2008 this year? Who are the best contenders??

Looking forward to you're next blogpost! Don't wait to long :)

  • 1 vote
Reply#3 - Thu Jul 26, 2012 2:35 PM EDT

Shawn, the changes in your life are still new. You haven't had time to figure it all out yet, but you will! Maybe coaching will fill some of the emptiness you are feeling and it will keep you in the game! Just think of all the knowledge you can give to all those young girls. You may find a future Olympian! It takes time and you will succeed. You may have to end up moving from Des Moines to follow your dream. My daughter just started as a working student with a former short-listed Olympic equestrian. She's excited, a little anxious, but she knows this is her shot and she is taking it. She may not make it all the way, but it's her dream to see what she can do. If she doesn't get to the Olympics she'll do something with the training she is's priceless. As a mom, I'm excited for her, but I'm trying to convince her to wear a protective vest at all times. From a U of I grad and ex-Iowan (Ottumwa)... take care of yourself, all the best to you and enjoy London!!!

    Reply#4 - Thu Jul 26, 2012 3:18 PM EDT

    Pretty special, kid! Kind of your birthday and Christmas all rolled into one. Proud to have you out front!

      Reply#5 - Thu Jul 26, 2012 3:31 PM EDT

      I admire you so much and I hope you do somethin really awesome with your life now that your gymnastics life has come and gone. I would like to know what the 1 thing is that you are really looking forward to in life that you could never have done if you were still in gymnastics. Enjoy London this year Shawn! We will all be thinking of you xx

        Reply#6 - Thu Jul 26, 2012 3:49 PM EDT

        Hey Shawn will you interview Usain Bolt?

        • 1 vote
        Reply#7 - Thu Jul 26, 2012 4:24 PM EDT

        Good lord, is it really all about you, Shawn?

          Reply#8 - Thu Jul 26, 2012 4:54 PM EDT

          hm. seeing as though she is supposed to be blogging about what she is doing, it just might have a little to do with her.

          • 4 votes
          #8.1 - Thu Jul 26, 2012 5:57 PM EDT

          Didn't you ever have a passion or a dream? You get the taste of success, achievement, victory.. then though you may have the chance for similar experiences, but the taste is not quite as seductive.
          Shawn, by the sound of it, is doing something remarkable. She retired, but that doesn't mean the drive and passion is gone. She is getting as close as possible... for the time being. Who knows where she'll end up next.
          You go Shawn!

            #8.2 - Thu Jul 26, 2012 9:41 PM EDT

            Shawn is one of the most gorgeous gals on the face of the entire Earth. You will always represent US no matter what, Shawn, and we will always be proud of you, too!

            (I sympathize with you, Shawn. Many years ago my father washed out of West Point because he ran into a log which was submerged in the snow while skiing during his off time, and as a result he severely injured his leg.) - RC

              Reply#9 - Thu Jul 26, 2012 4:58 PM EDT

              Enjoy yourself. You represented your country extremely well as an Olympian and I am sure you will as a correspondent. Best of luck to you!

                Reply#10 - Thu Jul 26, 2012 5:00 PM EDT


                Thank you for your dedication and service to the US and the Olympics. Its great to see you get an opportunity to be so involved in it even after your retirement. You've earned it.

                Looking forward to seeing more of you during the Olympics. Enjoy every minute of this special opportunity.

                PS - your super cute in that pic!! :-)

                  Reply#11 - Thu Jul 26, 2012 5:03 PM EDT

                  Hot. <3

                  • 1 vote
                  Reply#12 - Thu Jul 26, 2012 5:27 PM EDT

                  Also Shawn who do you think will dominate in London Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt? Do you think Ryan Locte will beat Michael Phelps and do you think Yohan Black will beat Usain Bolt and who win gold all round between Gabby Douglas and Jordyn Wieber. Also I wish you were competing because you were great in 2008 in Bejing. So I hope you post pictures because I want see a pic of you interview Usain Bolt. Well take care

                    Reply#13 - Thu Jul 26, 2012 5:42 PM EDT

                    I have to admit it... I'm in love with Shawn Johnson and have been for years! :)

                      Reply#14 - Thu Jul 26, 2012 6:40 PM EDT

                      On a serious note, although I was serious last comment, congrats to you Shawn on your new role. It is very impressive and quite an honor to be the voice and face at the Olympics. I know you will do everyone very proud as you always have.

                        Reply#15 - Thu Jul 26, 2012 6:43 PM EDT

                        oops I made typo it's blake not black

                          Reply#16 - Thu Jul 26, 2012 7:57 PM EDT

                          Shawn, can you expand on why Olympic athletes can't view other events like you mentioned above and when you were an athlete what would you have wanted to go to that you were not allowed? (Gal from Iowa)

                            Reply#17 - Thu Jul 26, 2012 8:50 PM EDT

                            I see posters asking Shawn Johnson questions directly- as if she's going to be on Newsvine! Really!

                            • 1 vote
                            Reply#18 - Thu Jul 26, 2012 8:52 PM EDT

                            Shawn, what advice have you given the new gymnasts. As a retired athlete watching the games, other than gymnastics which event do you wish you could be a part of.

                              Reply#19 - Thu Jul 26, 2012 8:53 PM EDT

                              What a lovely and gracious young woman you seem to be. I wish you all the best.

                                Reply#20 - Thu Jul 26, 2012 9:14 PM EDT

                                yep still hot

                                  Reply#21 - Thu Jul 26, 2012 9:19 PM EDT

                                  Shawn, can you shed light on our current economic conditions and the issue of Global warming?

                                    Reply#22 - Thu Jul 26, 2012 10:43 PM EDT

                                    Shawn, can you please post more pictures of your azz?

                                      Reply#23 - Fri Jul 27, 2012 12:32 AM EDT

                                      Hi Shawn,

                                      I was shocked and dismayed that you will no longer be competing. Is this permanent? What do you think you will do after the Olympics? I wish you the brightest future, which you deserve -- you will always be my favorite Olympian!!!

                                        Reply#24 - Fri Jul 27, 2012 1:42 AM EDT

                                        Dear Shawn,

                                        I was shocked and dismayed that you will not be competing in this summer's Olympics. Are you retiring permanently? What are your plans for the future? I admire you so much. I especially admire your close relationship with your family and your volunteer work with animals. You will always be my favorite Olympian. I wish you the brightest future. I will look forward to your comments on the Olympics.

                                          Reply#25 - Fri Jul 27, 2012 1:47 AM EDT
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