Shawn Johnson

Catching up with Shawn Johnson

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Shawn Johnson has kept plenty busy since her four-medal performance at the 2008 Olympics.

The gymnast won “Dancing with the Stars” in 2009, made a run at the 2012 Olympics after tearing an ACL skiing and then retired two months before the London Games due to the knee injury.

Johnson went back on “Dancing with the Stars” for an all-star edition later in 2012 and recently started taking college classes.

OlympicTalk recently caught up with Johnson to look back on her career, discuss her future and analyze the current gymnastics scene:

OlympicTalk: You’re in college now, what are you studying?

Johnson: I’m a freshman at Vanderbilt, studying sports psychology and dietetics. I want to turn it around in the sport. I want to give back to gymnastics.

OlympicTalk: What’s the classroom setting like?

Johnson: I haven’t really been in a classroom setting yet. I’m going to be a full-time student next fall. But I’ve done a lot of online.

OlympicTalk: Why Vanderbilt?

Johnson: I already live in Nashville, so it was already kind of a perfect fit. I lived in LA for a while. It’s a little bit too big of a city for me, seeing as I’m from Des Moines, Iowa. And then I found Nashville, was interested in Vanderbilt and moved there. My best friend lives there. It kind of all fell together.

OlympicTalk: What are your first memories of the 2008 Olympics?

Johnson: I would say the team competition was the epitome of the Olympics for me, being able to work together, compete together and earn a (silver) medal. It’s everything that I had dreamed of and worked for.

OlympicTalk: Would you change anything about your comeback in 2010 in hindsight?

Johnson: Not at all. It wasn’t exactly like I dreamed or planned because I wanted to be on that (Olympic) team, but I don’t think I would have come back if it weren’t for my knee injury. That was kind of the motivation behind it, and that ultimately is what ended my career. It was a great learning experience. I wouldn’t change it.

source: Getty Images
Shawn Johnson won one gold (balance beam) and three silvers at the Beijing Olympics. (Getty Images)

OlympicTalk: Which current gymnast do you like to watch?

Johnson: She’s not a senior yet, but her name is Norah Flatley (14 years old, on the Junior National Team). She’s a Chow’s gymnast (training under Liang Chow, Johnson’s longtime coach in Iowa). She worked under me. She’s almost a mini-me. She’ll be in the 2016 Olympics if I’m putting my money on it.

OlympicTalk: No U.S. woman has made back-to-back Olympic teams since 2000. What do you attribute that to?

Johnson: Our difficulty level. I think our girls are so far ahead of other gymnasts and other countries. We choose such difficulty that we almost burn our girls out too early. It works for us. We bring the medals back and everything, but I think it’s a lifestyle. We have the freedom to kind of move into other things, where other countries make a living off of it.

OlympicTalk: Can you compare/contrast your 2008 Olympic Team to the 2012 Fierce Five?

Johnson: No comparison to 2012, but I think the 2008 team was really great because we had our team leader, Alicia Sacramone. She was like the mom. She kept us all grounded and sane and not distracted. We had strengths from every other girl. Sam Peszek was awesome. She was good on every event. Bridget Sloan, Chellsie Memmel, Nastia Liukin, obviously, she won everything. We had a really good team bond, and we were a family. So, it worked well.

OlympicTalk: Do you still talk to Liukin?

Johnson: We don’t talk very much. She is a busy, busy girl. As am I. All of our lives have gone different directions, but we keep in touch every once in a while. Alicia just got married, so we were all celebrating that. I guess we’re growing up a little bit.

OlympicTalk: You’ve said you want to run a marathon?

Johnson: I’m still recovering from injuries from my sport, so I’ve been out of commission for the last year, not able to work out or do anything. My goals are definitely physical, trying to get back in shape and back into everything. So a marathon would be amazing. I have a crazy idea for an Ironman one day.

OlympicTalk: Why an Ironman?

Johnson: Just because it’s so extreme. The Olympics are extreme, so why not an Ironman? I hate running in general, I feel like I would drown, and I don’t really own a bike. So it doesn’t make sense, but I’ll accomplish it someday. I’m a competitor.

OlympicTalk: So you’re still dealing with injuries?

Johnson: Some nagging stuff. I also love to work out, so I never stop. My doctor finally made me stop for a year. I’m finally getting back to it.

The Olympic All-Star baseball team

Lance Armstrong lawyers want Greg LeMond, Betsy Andreu excluded from trial

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Lance Armstrong’s $100 million fraud trial is months away, yet his fight with the government and former teammate-turned-rival Floyd Landis is heating up.

Armstrong, who was stripped of his 2000 Olympic bronze medal and seven Tour de France titles for doping, wants to bar potential testimony and evidence from some of his most dogged critics.

That includes the blistering U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report that led to his downfall and former Tour de France champion Greg LeMond, who now stands as the only American to have officially won the race.

Landis, who tipped investigators to Armstrong’s cheating back in 2010, wants to prevent Armstrong from telling jurors about his own doping history and motivation to file a lawsuit that could put more than $20 million in his pocket.

Trial is scheduled for November in federal court in Washington, and lawyers for both sides recently filed a series of motions asking U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper to exclude some key evidence.

Landis initially sued Armstrong in 2010, alleging Armstrong violated the cycling team’s U.S. Postal Service contract by using performance-enhancing drugs. The government joined in 2013 after Armstrong admitted using steroids and other banned performance-enhancing drugs and techniques to win the Tour de France seven times and become the world’s dominant bicycle racer from 1999-2005. The government wants to recover more than $30 million the Postal Service paid to sponsor Armstrong’s team and will seek triple damages.

Armstrong’s cheating was exposed and detailed in a 2012 U.S Anti-Doping Agency report that included sworn testimony from several of his former teammates. He was stripped of his Tour de France victories, banned from competition and has paid an estimated $20 million to settle various lawsuits.

Armstrong’s lawyers now call the USADA report “inadmissible hearsay” for the federal case and say it was written to satisfy the motives of an agency out to get him. They notably object to the report’s summation that Armstrong led the most “most sophisticated” doping program in sports history.

Even if the report is blocked, Armstrong has admitted and provided sworn testimony about his performance-enhancing drug use.

Armstrong also wants to block testimony from Betsy Andreu, the wife of former Armstrong teammate Frankie Andreu. She was one of the first to provide sworn testimony about Armstrong’s drug use in a 2005 lawsuit, and has been a prominent critic of Armstrong’s past efforts to intimidate anyone who raised the specter of his doping. Armstrong’s lawyers call her a publicity seeker who blames Armstrong for her husband not having a better career.

Betsy Andreu said she hasn’t done TV interviews about Armstrong since 2013 and turned down a book deal.

“It’s been well established that Lance will stop at nothing to discredit my husband and me because of our uncompromising integrity,” she told The Associated Press. “Lance tried to shut me up by bullying me to the point of breaking me. He didn’t succeed then, he will not succeed now.”

LeMond’s presence at trial could be explosive as he has clashed fiercely with both Armstrong and Landis in the past. Armstrong’s lawyers want him out.

“While LeMond is well-versed in the prevalence of doping throughout the sport during the relevant time period (1997-2004) and still owns the record for the fastest time trial in Tour de France history, he has no personal knowledge regarding Armstrong, the USPS sponsorship agreement, or invoices submitted for sponsorship payments,” Armstrong’s lawyers wrote.

Kathy LeMond told the AP her husband has intimate knowledge of Postal Service contracting in the mid-1990s and the expectation by the government that teams were expected to be clean. LeMond was retired when the same group that organized Armstrong’s team first approached him about having a role in a Postal Service team, then froze him out, she said.

“They asked him to use his name to try to get a U.S.-based team,” Kathy LeMond said. “We have those documents … We gave it all to the Justice Department.”

The government wants the judge to block some of Armstrong’s evidence as well, including two reports commissioned by the Postal Service during the team sponsorship. Those reports claim the sponsorship was worth more than $100 million in global exposure, leading Armstrong to claim he owes the government nothing. The government argues those reports should be disallowed as “hearsay” that lack expert testimony to support them.

The government also wants to prevent him from attacking Landis’ character and motivation. Landis’ 2006 Tour de France victory was stripped after he was caught using synthetic testosterone. He initially claimed innocence and asked the public to finance his defense. Landis was later prosecuted for fraud and paid back more than $475,000.

As the whistleblower against Armstrong, Landis stands to pocket up to 25 percent of any damages awarded.

“Armstrong should not be allowed to deflect the jury’s attention from his own misdeeds by putting Landis on trial and introducing evidence to cast him in a bad light,” the government wrote.

Dallas attorney Matthew Orwig, a former federal prosecutor, said whistleblowers are “rarely totally pure” and attacking their character is a common legal tactic.

Even though Landis filed the initial lawsuit, the government has said it doesn’t plan to call him as a witness. The government should consider presenting Landis’ background instead of letting Armstrong do it, Orwig said.

“Let them hear it from you instead of the other side,” Orwig said. “It seems to inevitably come out.”

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South Korea president calls for North Korea at PyeongChang Olympics

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea President Moon Jae-in said Saturday he hopes to see North Korean athletes at next year’s Winter Olympics in South Korea to ease tensions over the North’s nuclear program.

Moon made the comments during the opening ceremony of the world taekwondo championships in the South Korean town of Muju, where a North Korean delegation led by International Olympic Committee member Chang Ung was also present.

The championships, which will feature a performance by the North Korean taekwondo demonstration team, mark the first sports exchange between the Koreas since the liberal Moon took office in May.

Moon has expressed a desire to use the Feb. 9-25 Pyeongchang Olympics to reach out to North Korea, with relations between the two at their lowest point in decades. During his stay in the South, Chang is expected to meet South Korean officials to discuss cooperation at the Winter Olympics.

“If North Korean athletes participate in the Pyeongchang Olympics, I think it would greatly contribute in realizing Olympic values, which are about bringing humanity together and promoting world peace,” said Moon.

He recalled key moments in sports diplomacy between the Koreas, including when they sent unified teams to the world table tennis and youth soccer championships in 1991, and their athletes marching together during the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Participation in Pyeongchang could “provide a turning point for the reconciliation between the South and North,” Moon said. “I sincerely ask the IOC and (IOC member) Chang who are here with us today for their strong consideration and cooperation.”

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