Former Olympian gymnast Shawn Johnson stands for a portrait in Mukilteo on Thursday. Johnson is in town to promote the Pacific Rim Championships which will be held in Everett at the beginning of April.

Former Olympian gymnast Shawn Johnson stands for a portrait in Mukilteo on Thursday. Johnson is in town to promote the Pacific Rim Championships which will be held in Everett at the beginning of April.

Everett’s Pacific Rim gymnastics event in April is ‘a huge deal’

  • By Rich Myhre Herald Writer
  • Thursday, February 11, 2016 10:59pm
  • SportsSports

MUKILTEO — In the summer of 2008, Shawn Johnson realized her childhood dream of competing at the Olympics and winning four medals, including one gold medal.

What happened afterward was even more than she ever could have imagined.

Johnson, who grew up in Des Moines, Iowa, was part of the United States women’s gymnastics team at the Olympic Games in Beijing. She came away with a gold medal in the balance beam and silver medals in team, floor exercise and all-around.

“It was a dream come true,” Johnson said Thursday during a visit to Snohomish County to promote the Pacific Rim Championships, April 8-10 at Everett’s Xfinity Arena. “I’d dreamt it my entire life. Going to the Olympics and experiencing everything that I did, and walking away with four medals, it was the perfect experience.”

Johnson had thoughts of trying again at the 2012 Games in London, but an injury prompted her retirement. Still, what happened in 2008 “was the biggest life-changing moment I could’ve experienced,” she said. “It was a six-year whirlwind career afterward, bouncing around the world, going on (television) shows and doing really strange things. It’s nothing anybody could’ve prepared me for, but it’s been a blessing.”

She appeared on the TV program “Celebrity Apprentice,” which she did not particularly enjoy — she was fired by Donald Trump — and “Dancing with the Stars,” which she very much enjoyed. Johnson partnered with dancer Mark Ballas in 2009 and the duo ended up winning the competition.

“Outside of the Olympics,” said the 24-year-old Johnson, “that’s been my favorite experience. I loved it and I’d do it every season if I could.”

But the best part of her post-Olympics life was meeting football player Andrew East in 2012. Last summer, after Johnson threw out the first pitch at a Chicago Cubs baseball game, East dropped to one knee and proposed with the entire Wrigley Field crowd looking on. The couple is planning an April 16 wedding.

In a nice twist, East recently signed with the Seattle Seahawks. A long snapper, he will try to make the team during training camp and the preseason schedule, which means the couple will be spending July and August — and, they hope, much longer — back in the Seattle area.

“I’m from Iowa, so I never was partial to an NFL team,” Johnson said. “I was an Iowa Hawkeye fan. But now I’m his fan.”

Back in 2006, Johnson competed as a 14-year-old junior at the Pacific Rim Championships, held that year in Honolulu. She won four gold medals and a silver medal.

The biennial event “is a huge deal,” she said, “and especially for all the girls that are competing in it. Most of them are kind of being tested because it’s the last look before they’re named to the team.

“It’s kind of the girls’ job to reassure their countries’ selection committees that they’re good enough to be on the Olympic team. So it’s a big deal and a big pressure situation, and a lot of eyes will be watching them.”

And for the fans, she added, “it’s Olympic-level (competition), and especially in the year of the Olympics. Every girl there is vying for a spot on the Olympic team, so what you’ll see there is what you’ll see in the Olympics.”

The full U.S. team coming to Everett has not been determined, but one member of the women’s team has been announced — three-time world all-around champion Simone Biles (2013-15), a gold medal favorite for the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.

When Biles competes, Johnson said, “you’re seeing things that you never would’ve dreamed of with women’s gymnastics. I watch her and I’m literally dumbfounded.”

In addition to Biles, three members of the American squad that won the team gold medal in London will be bidding for spots on this year’s team. Among them Gabby Douglas, who won the all-around gold medal in 2012.

In women’s gymnastics, Johnson said, the Americans have “a tried and true system going on right now, and I feel like the girls that we’re training are the best in the world. … I feel like we’ve got an incredibly strong team.”

With the Olympics just a few months away, “we don’t know what’s going on to happen with the other countries,” she said. “But I would expect nothing less (than more gold medals for the U.S.).”

Talk to us

More in Sports

Arlington sophomore wrestler Tre Haines grabs the leg of his teammate during practice on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023 in Arlington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Arlington wrestlers aim for more postseason success

The Eagles feature a standout trio of state placers from last season, including a state champion and runner-up.

The Everett Elite Flag Football 14-under team practices Sunday morning at Harbour Pointe Middle School in Mukilteo, Washington on January 16, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Community roundup: MP grad Davis earns silver with Fiji national team

Trina Davis helps Fiji women’s soccer at the Pacific Games, hammer throwers earn All-American nod, and locals take home collegiate all-league honors.

Arlington’s Dustin Baxter flexes after winning the 170 pound weight class match on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023 in Arlington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Extra time with clubs helps Arlington wrestlers Baxter, Haines excel

Before high school, Dustin Baxter and Tre Haines wrestled together on an Arlington-based club team.

X
Prep roundup for Wednesday, Dec. 6

Prep results for Wednesday, Dec. 6: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: Report results and… Continue reading

Lake Stevens head coach Tom Tri hugs quarterback Kolton Matson after the Vikings’ victory against Graham-Kapowsin in the WIAA 4A Football State Championship on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Patterson: Lake Stevens reaches dynasty level with 2nd state title

The Vikings join an exclusive group of Snohomish County football history.

X
Vote for The Herald’s Prep Athlete of the Week for Nov. 27-Dec. 3

The Athlete of the Week nominees for Nov. 27-Dec. 3. Voting closes… Continue reading

X
Prep roundup for Tuesday, Dec. 5

Prep results for Tuesday, Dec. 5: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: Report results and… Continue reading

X
Tips show they can hang with best in split with Prince George

Everett played a pair of tight games against the WHL’s top team, despite missing some key pieces.

X
Prep roundup for Monday, Dec. 4

Prep results for Monday, Dec. 4: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: Report results and… Continue reading

Lake Stevens players celebrate Jesse Lewis’ second-half touchdown against Graham-Kapowsin during the WIAA 4A Football State Championship on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Back to back!: Lake Stevens wins 4A state football title

The Vikings beat Graham-Kapowsin 31-6 for their second straight Class 4A state championship.

Lake Stevens senior Jesse Lewis takes a short pass all the way for a first half touchdown against Graham-Kapowsin during the WIAA 4A Football State Championship on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Notebook: Lake Stevens’ Jesse Lewis has best game on biggest stage

Plus, key adjustments for the Vikings defense and Kolton Matson’s impact with his legs.

Washington running back Dillon Johnson (7) celebrates with teammates after a touchdown against Oregon during the second half of the Pac-12 championship NCAA college football game Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)
Huskies receive No. 2 seed, face Texas in CFP semifinals

Washington gets a postseason rematch in the Sugar Bowl. Michigan gets the No. 1 seed.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.