Shawn Johnson may be only 20 years old but she has experienced a lifetime's worth of obstacles. After she danced once again in the Dancing with the Stars finals on Monday night, the former Olympic gymnast reflected on her triumphant journey from a disappointing end to her gymnastics career to competing for a second Mirrorball Trophy.
After earning a gold medal at 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Johnson hoped to end her gymnastics career on a high note at the recent London Olympics but was anchored down by a knee injury that stemmed from a 2010 torn ACL.
Although she was disappointed to end her career so abruptly, Johnson was then cast as a member of Dancing with the Stars' first All-Stars season, which has served as a transition for her. As she professes, her dancing partner Derek Hough helped her tremendously with that transition.
"[Derek's] given me back something that will last forever, and in a thirteen-week time period," she praised. "Coming off of my [gymnastics] comeback, I lost really the only thing that I knew. I found my confidence and my enjoyment and everything on a gymnastics floor, and when you don't have that you kind of lose sight of any place to find that.
"Coming into dancing, where I knew I wasn't the best; I knew I was somewhat insecure; I really didn't know where to find it, and each week he kind of brought a little more out of me and let me open up and have fun and find confidence and find a stage. That meant the world to me."
Although Johnson ended her gymnastics career prior to this year's summer Olympics, she nevertheless maintains a close relationship with the current Fierce Five gymnasts, who joined her for Monday night's dance at her request. Her partner highlighted the fittingness of Johnson's Dancing journey culminating with a gymnastics flare.
"When we do [the dance]....it's a big spectacle and [the] Fierce Five [are there], and we're doing tricks and all these things, but for me what was so special about it was this underlying story of Shawn's story," Hough said. "It was a tender moment that she got to share that last moment with the girls...It was amazing."
Although her dreams of once more capturing an Olympic gold medal have been thwarted, Johnson will now have the opportunity to win her second Mirrorball Trophy on tonight's Dancing with the Stars, which airs at 8 p.m. on ABC.