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Review: Winning Balance by Shawn Johnson
This is the autobiography of a teenage Olympic champion gymnast from West Des Moines, Iowa who balanced her life and gymnastics in a remarkable way. If you enjoy my review, you will thoroughly enjoy her book.
Shawn Johnson was born on January 19, 1992 at the Iowa Lutheran Hospital in Des Moines, Iowa. The umbilical cord had been wrapped around her neck and she had been deprived of oxygen for some time, but the doctors and nurses worked on her and after 48 hours in an incubator she responded quickly. Perhaps her Apgar test of 0 was an indication that life was going to be a roller coaster ride.
Her parents had the name Shawn picked out for their baby whether it was a boy or a girl. If the baby had been a boy, the name would have been spelled Shaun. Shawn was a wiggly baby, and once she started to walk, she never slowed down. At the age of 3, her mother decided to take her to a gymnastics club so she could work off some of her excessive energy. Her mother wasn't necessarily fond of the sport, she just wanted a safe, soft place for Shawn to play. The coach there told Shawn's mother that her girl was full of energy, but not much talent! If he only knew where she would be in 2008--at the Summer Olympics in Beijing, China!
After three years, her mother found a gym closer to their home in West Des Moines, Iowa, and enrolled Shawn there. The coach there was Qiao Liang, who had an exceptional career with the Chinese national gymnastics team. He told Shawn and her mother that he preferred to be called Chow. And thus began a partnership between coach and gymnast that culminated in his home country for the Olympics in 2008. Shawn was a willing student who wanted to learn all she could as quickly as she could. Nothing was too challenging. If she fell, she got up over and over again.
Each chapter in her book begins with an inspiring quote from a famous person and ends with a lesson for life that Shawn has learned along the way. Throughout "Winning Balance" Shawn uses some of the poems she has written over the years to indicate the balance of her zest for life and her sport.
Shawn and Coach Chow
Four Olympic Medals in 2008
Training and Competition
At the age of 12, in April of 2004, in Kissimmee, Florida Shawn won a gold medal on the balance beam with a score of 9.9 out of a possible 10. The balance beam has always been her favorite gymnastic routine over the years so this medal was especially rewarding. Overall at this competition she came in fourth and thus received an invitation to go to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and attend the National Junior Camp the coming summer. Thus began a four-year journey of training and competition that led to her competing at the Summer Olympics in Beijing, China in 2008.
Shawn continued to train under Chow, and over the years her potential began to shine through. Without her knowledge, Chow sent a video of Shawn performing to Martha Karoyli who has coached Olympic champions through the years. After a few weeks, he received an invitation for Shawn to a developmental camp in Texas where Marta had a training camp for the best and brightest in the sport of gymnastics. Naturally this was a great privilege, but her parents weren't too sure. Was they really what she wanted? Did she really want to give up much of her childhood and teen years to train so hard? Her parents and her coach both agreed that "education is number one and gymnastics number two." But the final decision was left up to Shawn.
Shawn decided that she wanted to take advantage of this great opportunity, and once she made the decision, her parents supported her totally. They had one condition and that was that "she follow her coaches' rules out of respect for them." Thus began her training and the road to the 2008 Summer Olympics.
Over the next years, the following are some of the competitions and awards Shawn won:
- 3rd in the all around in Virginia Beach for the 2005 U.S. Classic, which is the final qualifying event for the Visa National Championship.
- 10th in the Visa Championships later that year in Indianapolis and that earned her the final spot on the USA Gymnastics' junior national team.
- 1st place in the all-around, vault and floor exercise in Belgium.
- 1st in the all-around at the Tyson American Cup in Jacksonville, Florida in 2007.
- 1st in the all-around at the Pan American Games in Rio-de-Janeiro, Brazil in July of 2007.
- 1st in the all-around in San Jose for the 2007 Visa Championships which determined the national champion.
- the team gold medal at the World Championships in Germany.
As all the world knows, Shawn earned four medals at the Olympics in 2008, but she was disappointed in not winning the gold medal for the all-around performance.
Mirror Ball Trophy
Life After the Olympics
The "Winning Balance" continues on with the story of Shawn's life after the Olympics, including her appearance on Dancing With The Stars and winning the Mirror Ball Trophy there. During her weeks in California for the DWTS show, she was actually stalked by a man from Florida who had become obsessed with her.
To celebrate her eighteenth birthday, Shawn, her parents, her cousin Tori, her boyfriend Ryan, Ryan's friend, Brandon and Shawn's close friend Alice went skiing in Beaver Creek, Colorado. It was there that Shawn experienced a skiing accident and tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), her medial collateral ligament, and the meniscus. Once again she had to be an overachiever, not satisfied to just tear her ACL. In the end, this injury was the finish of her gymnastics career.
Shawn's journey in the "Winning Balance" is a great inspiration, and hopefully a positive influence, for all who read it.
MSN Fox Sports ran a story on 6/27/2012 on Shawn's retirement and what comes next.
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