Photo Credit: Kelly Wallace/iVillage
Like Wieber, Johnson was the favorite for the all-around gold during the 2008 Olympics, heading to Beijing as the world champion. While Shawn made the all-around final, she saw her hopes of gold dashed at the very end of the competition, having to settle for silver and watch teammate Nastia Lukin take home the gold instead.
“It’s the Olympics, you never know what’s going to happen and unfortunately, in our sport, a lot of it has to do with what judges like,” Johnson told me during an interview at the P&G Family Home, a place for Team USA family members and athletes to spend time together during the Games. “It broke my heart,” said Shawn, who was in the arena and quickly realized what had happened after seeing Aly Raisman’s coach scream and jump up in the air. Aly and Gabby Douglas, who's almost like a younger sister to Shawn, made the team and will compete for Olympic gold in the all-around final. Only two women from each team can make it to the all-around final based on Olympic rules.
“I think everybody in America and in the world … is confused right now,” Shawn added. That includes Jordyn's mom Rita, who wrote a moving post on her blog. She questioned the current rules. "Shouldn't it be the top eight athletes period???? It doesn't make sense yet. It doesn't matter, it is what it is," she wrote.
While Shawn was shocked about Jordyn, she was not surprised that Aly surged in the qualifying round. “She’s always been a fierce competitor and I think she’s kind of gone unnoticed for a while because the spotlight’s been on Jordyn and Gabby,” said Shawn.
Gabby, just 16 years old, moved to Des Moines two years ago so she could train with the same coach Shawn used to win Olympic gold on the balance beam. “It gives me goose bumps … just thinking about seeing her name on the scoreboard and that she’s made the finals takes everything her family has gone through and makes it worth it.”
Her Advice to Jordyn: “She had a great meet, I mean, she went out of bounds, that was like her biggest mistake, and that’s nothing,” Shawn said. “She did a phenomenal job and she needs to realize that … her record and her background (are) unbelievable and that will never go away. She is still to everybody one of the strongest, if not the strongest competitor in the world.”
Wrote Jordyn's mom: "I am heartbroken that she won't have the chance to fulfill her lifelong dream but I pray she will feel fulfilled and grateful for what she has accomplished and contributed to this sport. ... To be part of an Olympic team is an amazing accomplishment in itself and I hope that is what Jordyn feels in the end."
Looking Ahead to the Team Final on Tuesday: “They can’t get a big head yet,” said Shawn, as the U.S. team, first after the qualifying round ahead of Russia and China, will try to be the first women’s team since 1996 to win gold in the team final. “This is only preliminaries, there isn’t a medal involved here, they have to start over and come back even hungrier than they were today.”
Being a Spectator, Not a Competitor: “It’s strange, it’s emotional, walking into the arena, it’s kind of like a little knife in your stomach, your heart because I knew I wanted to be down there,” said Shawn, who was mounting a comeback and trying to make the 2012 team, until injuries forced her to retire last month. “I also feel like I‘ve been out of it long enough to where it doesn’t feel like I could even be down there so I’m like, ‘Well, that looks just impossible. I’m going to stay seated in my seat and relax.'”
On Blogging during the Olympics for Today.com & Doing Work for P&G: “It definitely helps,” Shawn said. “This is my life, I love athletics, I love sports, I love the Olympic movement and retiring, I was afraid that that would all go away and being reassured that it hasn’t (is)…gratifying. It’s nice to still be able to live my dream but in a different sense.”
Kelly Wallace is chief correspondent of iVillage and is in London covering the Olympics. You can follow Kelly’s daily behind-the-scenes blog reports here and her Olympic tweets by following her on Twitter (@kellywallacetv).
The cost of Kelly Wallace’s travel to London and accommodation was paid by Procter & Gamble.