That’s how a lot of the world saw Shawn Johnson in 2008. She was supposed to be the next great American gymnast and take home a handful of gold medals at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Instead, she won one and mostly played runner-up, losing the coveted all-around title to teammate Nastia Lukin.
“I felt like I had failed the world. 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.”
That feeling was seared into her memory when the person presenting her a silver medal at the games leaned in and said two words: “I’m sorry.”
That disappointment motivated her to win “Dancing with the Stars” the next year, and fueled a comeback attempt for the 2012 London Olympics. But, soon the weight of perfection and the expectations to be, look, and act like everyone wanted her to took a toll.
She found freedom one day while preparing to practice her balance beam routine. That’s when something — or rather someone — spoke to her.