Lecture from an Olympic Gold-Medalist Kicks Off Spring Weekend


By Amina Bhatti


Shawn Johnson competing at the 2008 Summer Olympics competing on vault. (Judy Shen/Wikimedia Commons)

A date change did not stop a line of students from descending down the McGinley stairs, outside and onto the street on Tuesday evening for Spring Weekend’s kickoff lecture. In line, long time fans of former Olympic star Shawn Johnson waited attend the first come, first serve lecture presented by the American Age Lecture Series in the McGinley Ballroom and hosted by the Campus Activities Board (CAB).

“Johnson has always been my favorite gymnast in the Olympics,” said Emmy Casper, FCRH ’17, who was among those standing on  line.

Shawn Johnson won the gold medal and three silver medals at the age of 16 in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China. She also appeared on Dancing with the Stars as a contestant a year later, the youngest contestant at the time at age 17. At the lecture series, Johnson discussed her current work and how it was influenced by her experience at the Olympics.

“I coach, mentor, I do public speaking, I work with CEOs of different companies… but from the second I finished the Olympics, in all this chaos surrounding me in opportunities and endorsements, I had a completely different outlook [than if I had not had my Olympic experience,]”she told a captive audience.

Johnson also said she felt pressure from society and media outlets to win gold in the Beijing Olympics. After winning silver in all-around women’s gymnastics in summer 2008, she faced a media storm focusing on her loss rather than congratulating her on winning the silver medal. However, Johnson said that she felt like a winner in her heart after her performance, even more so than when she won gold in the balance beam competition that same summer.

“The lesson I learned in Beijing was… being successful [comes through] doing what you love,” she said.

After winning three silvers and a gold medal in 2008, Johnson decided not to participate in the 2012 Olympics and instead turned to building the life she has now. She is newly married, attends Vanderbilt University where she majors in business and has hopes of running some great businesses in the future. Johnson said she hoped that her audience took this lesson to heart.

Fordham students in attendance gave the lecture positive reviews. Siobhan Donohue, FCRH ’17, said she was inspired by both the speech itself and CAB’s organization. Wajiha Khan, FCRH ’16, said that Johnson “seemed like a funny and genuine person who had great advice for anyone who wants to follow their dream.”

Last year saw Brandon Stanton, creator of the famous Humans of New York blog and best-selling book of the same name, guest lecture before Spring Weekend.

The next Spring Weekend performer will be DJ Sliink as musical guest on Friday night in the Lombardi Center.


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