10 MINUTES WITH SHAWN JOHNSON — 

3 07 2012

The Euro 2012 tournament came and went, and I’ll admit, once Netherlands laid a big fat wet one my interest level dropped dramatically. I think I caught one entire game (Italy vs. Germany) and that was it. BUT, I’ve been busy, mainly, working the U.S. Gymnastics Trials in San Jose. Yeah, I know, gymnastics. I will say this, it was awesome. We don’t get a lot of gymnastics coverage opportunities and you don’t see too many local reporters jumping at the chance to cover gymnastics, BUT, it helped me learn a bit more about why it is that I choose to do this for a living. Anyway, step 1 of the coverage … Media Day and a chat with 2008 Gold and Silver Medalist (and Dancing with the Stars Champion) Shawn Johnson.

Shawn was at the Trials to announce a huge grant the U.S. Gymnastics sports fund is receiving from Proctor and Gamble, one of her biggest sponsors. She held a press conference at 2 p.m. (which we missed) and then would be doing one-on-one interviews (which I wasn’t 100 percent ready for). The route of an interview depends solely on the interviewer — I knew I was at a disadvantage given that I’d be the last of about 10-11 hours worth of camera time Shawn had already invested in the day. Superstar or not, that would make anyone terribly cranky. That said, the interview went well (from what I can tell). Shawn is a blast to talk to and she gets how this whole ‘sit down interview’ thing works. By the way, these photos are courtesy of Ashley Hansen, the newest member of the Daily Journal Internship team (who also happens to be a colossal gymnastics nerd).

About the only GOOD thing that can come out of an interview that you aren’t totally prepared for is this idea of conversational spontaneity: I knew I wanted to ask about retirement, but after that, I had no idea. Basically, what would fuel the interview was her first answer … and from there, it’s a practice in improv-ing your way through a 10 minute chat. So, we say hello, nice to meet you, nice to meet you too, how does it feel to be in San Jose and she tells me about 2007 and winning a National Title adding at the end of that little tidbit, “I’m very conflicted emotionally right now.” Then, Shawn’s initial response to: So, tell me, how does retirement feel? was the most interesting part of our chat.

“It’s scary. Gymnastics has been a part of my life since I was 3 [years old] and even in 2008 when I took two years off, the door was still open. I was still able, I was still wondering, ‘Should I? Could I?’ kind of with one foot in the door. Whereas now, the door is closed. I’ve never had that feeling before. It’s liberating — I finally get to turn a new chapter and try new stuff.”

Yeah, I pretty much thought that quote was flippin’ awesome and it gave me a way into a story that wasn’t there before.

Shawn was great. A couple people asked me what it was like to interview a star of her caliber and truthfully, I think I’ve been doing this long enough to control that whole ‘oh my god!’ complex. I think big celebrities can sense when you’re star struck and kind of tense up. I don’t know, it’s just how I am. Plus, thinking of Shawn (or any other star) as just a girl you met and want to chat with lends itself to better conversation. I like for the subject to tell the story, not me. Speaking of story …

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