Shawn Johnson: 'Going to London is bittersweet'

Gold-winning gymnast and TODAY.com 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 TODAY.com 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 TODAY.com 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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What kinds of "swag" did the US athletes get upon their arrival?

    Reply#34 - Fri Jul 27, 2012 10:33 AM EDT

    @Kettletap

    A truckload of condoms according to Hope Solo.

    Also, Shawn, I heard the "chav" situation is really bad there in England, have you been having trouble? You fit the profile of their favorite prey.

      Reply#35 - Fri Jul 27, 2012 7:48 PM EDT

      First and foremost, my fiancee and I were cheering you on all through the Beijing Olympics and we were looking forward to seeing you, Alicia and Nastia come back this year in London and kill it once again but unfortunately, things happen and life goes on.

      Which athlete are you most nervous to interview and are you getting autographs of all the athletes that you are interviewing?

        Reply#36 - Sat Jul 28, 2012 12:55 AM EDT
        Comment author avatarNatalie Pennockvia Facebook

        Do you think you will cry when you watch the other athletes compete in the same events that you would have if you were competing?

          Reply#37 - Sat Jul 28, 2012 2:12 AM EDT

          Hey Shawn,

          From one Iowan to another. I would like to know if it's as hot there in the UK as it has been here all summer.

            Reply#38 - Sat Jul 28, 2012 2:26 PM EDT

            Hey Shawn,

            Just wanted to say you will always be #1 to all Iowans..you rock Shawn! Always and forever :)

              Reply#39 - Sat Jul 28, 2012 2:39 PM EDT

              Shawn, that was the most heart felted, honest,tearful,joyful blog I have ever read! Us regular folks are amazed at ya'lls dedication etc... but never thought about the aftermath. Very insightful my darling. See you on DWTS ! Will great to have you back! XOXO

                Reply#40 - Mon Jul 30, 2012 11:10 AM EDT

                Great first Blog. You will always be a spectacular athlete. Good luck on all your future endeavors.

                P.S. Besides Gymnastics, have you seen any other sport at the Olympics that you would like to try?

                  Reply#41 - Mon Jul 30, 2012 11:14 AM EDT

                  Hey shawn,

                  I always your uniqueness and captivated by your charm when you were competing 4 years ago. How was your transition from being an olympian to becoming an ex. What are your other interests in sports?

                  • 1 vote
                  Reply#42 - Tue Jul 31, 2012 12:49 AM EDT

                  Hey Shawn,

                  I've always admired you since you graced the olympics stage with your captivating smile and charming personality. I was indeed disappointed that you didn't participate in this year olympics but i hope all is well with you and that you have fully recovered from your injury. What is the toughest part of being an ex-olympian and what's your other interests in sports? Do you have an plans towards the nearby future?

                    Reply#43 - Tue Jul 31, 2012 1:04 AM EDT
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