Rio, the name of a South American city, holds so much hope for hundreds of athletes gearing up to compete on the biggest stage of their lives.
Five of those athletes are Gabby Douglas (age 20), Aly Raisman (21), MyKayla Skinner (19), Simone Biles (18), and Madison Kocian (18). These five women make up one of the most elite teams of any competing at the Olympics: the U.S.A. Women’s Gymnastics Team.
These five slots are some of the hardest to achieve — but these young women are not resting on their laurels. They’ve gained a ticket to the biggest show of their lives. Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman are going back to the Olympics. While both have gold medals already, it’s exceedingly rare for a female gymnast to return to the Olympics.
One person who knows this better than anyone is Shawn Johnson, America’s darling from the Beijing Olympics. Johnson released a video last week explaining the high stakes and her journey toward realizing there are more important things in life.
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The video “I AM SECOND” is part of a series of videos featuring different celebrities who commit to putting Jesus first in their lives.
The expectations going into that Olympics for 16-year-old Johnson were impossibly high, and anything less than gold would have been a disappointment.
Johnson finished with a silver, another silver, yet another silver, and a gold medal — and to her, it didn’t seem quite enough.
“I felt like I had failed the world,” she explains in the video. “I felt like since the world saw me as nothing else, that if I failed at being a gymnast, I had failed at being a human being.”
While struggling and training to get to the Olympic trials for her second Olympic games, Johnson felt depressed and not herself, many around her noticed.
She was pushing herself hard to make the London Olympics and was only one year away when she got up on the beam and finally saw things clearly.
“In that one moment, I felt like God was telling me, ‘You’ve been so distraught over this decision and you’ve been putting yourself through all of this, and your family through all of this. And you’ve been afraid of disappointing a lot of people, and not been yourself, but it’s OK to put all behind you,'” she said in the video. “In that instant, I felt the entire world was being lifted off my shoulders and in that one instant, I knew it was all going to be okay.”
She continued, “I was giving my heart and soul and getting to a place that I was not proud of all for that gold medal again — that I distinctly remember in 2008 not being the greatest thing in the world. I think it’s just kind of that validation that there’s always more,” Johnson said.
“God is answer to everything and Jesus sacrificed his life on the cross so that when I stood up there and I was given that gold medal, yes it’s a monumental and amazing experience and a wonderful thing, but it’s not the end all, be all.”
She said she could win as many as 12 more gold medals, “but it’s not the purpose in life.”
“He will always be my greatest reward and my proudest reward,” Johnson said with pure joy.
No matter what it is in our lives — whether it’s a gold medal or a career goal — it’s important to remember the purpose of life. Shawn Johnson’s inspiring testimony is sending that message.