Monday, 24 September 2012

Winning Balance by Shawn Johnson - Review

“Winning Balance” is an autobiography written by a 20 year old Shawn Johnson whose dream it was to make the 2008 USA Olympic Gymnastics Team. Johnson takes us on the journey from her childhood antics right through Olympic experience and onto her successful career as a contestant on the hit show “Dancing with the Stars.” I was enlightened by her writing and felt somewhat inspired after completing this novel as I felt a special connection between her thoughts and my own. Ever since I first saw her compete way back in 2006 at the tender age of fourteen, I could see her potential and have aspired to her ever since then. It’s not just her gymnastics I admire but her attitude, work ethic and her passion for the sport. It was a complete delight reading this book and to be quite honest, I was sad that it had to end!

From the first few chapters I couldn’t even begin to realise how perfect this read was for me. She writes, “So many people try to force success but my parents just wanted me to be happy, not necessarily a happy gymnast.”  Johnson’s every thought about competition and training that reached the page mirrored mine. For example, she has a rule that she doesn’t look at the scoreboard during competitions purely because she wants to focus on herself and nobody else. This is my mind set at competitions as I figure that you can only control your gymnastics. Johnson taught me throughout this book that a person’s courage may not always roar. It may just be the voice telling yourself that you’ll try again tomorrow. So often people give up because it’s the easiest way out but I find that trying something again will always be more rewarding. Even though I’m not an Olympic athlete, I found that I could relate to this book on so many levels. She was so close to giving up at different stages of her career but always fought through those hard times. Even as a five year old, her parents were told that she had no talent and that her gymnastics wouldn’t come to anything. Now that I know this, I admire her so much more as a gymnast now. After countless times of not being good enough, she persevered. It must feel good for her to be able to turn around to all those people and say “look at me now!” with four Olympic medals around her neck.

Throughout this novel, Shawn exposed her exhilarating Olympic experience. Along with all the competition preparation, the excitement of the Opening Ceremony and competing in front of a worldwide audience she explains her inner most thoughts and things that I hadn’t originally thought would have happened during the Olympic Games. I was surprised when she described her crush from the room below where they were staying in the Athletes village. It was adorable the relationship they had as she finally found someone who understood her motive to be an Olympic champion and train forty hour weeks. It was interesting reading this part of the book as these are the personal details that you never really hear of through the media. It gave me perspective on how hard it is for people like Shawn to maintain normal relationships yet how important they are. I learnt how crucial it is to have a balanced life-style between work, school, friends, sport and your faith. Shawn really grasped this idea throughout the book and it’s incredibly inspiring to see how she did it.

From reading this book, I realised how much of a down to earth and humble person she is. Going into the Beijing Olympics, she was expected to bring home the gold in the most anticipated competition: the individual all around. Much to everyone’s shock, she was outscored by her fellow American team mate – Nastia Liukin. The media portrayed the silver medal Shawn won as a bad thing but in this book she described it as being the best feeling ever. It was her most accomplishing moment. Being the modest sixteen year old she was at the time, she was over the moon by placing second at the Olympics even though many others were disappointed in her performance. She said it meant even more than her gold medal on the balance beam which signified to me the kind of person she is. She’s all about personal enjoyment and how achieving your own goals aren’t necessarily reflected by a gold medal. Her goal was to compete in the all around at the Olympics and that’s exactly what she did, getting the silver medal was just a bonus. She won in her own way which is a really important message people can take from reading this book. So often achievements are looked through without any recognition but everyone should be able to take pride in what they have accomplished, no matter how big or small the accomplishment is.

This book truly inspired me and it was in ways, an awakening about what I want to achieve in my future. Not only does her gymnastics inspire me now but her mind set and her various achievements not related to sport. If you have a dream, nothing can stop you from reaching it but yourself. Shawn emphasises that everybody is good at something and its people who utilise those talents who end up being the successful ones.  Shawn Johnson was just your typical small town girl except when she got presented with an opportunity, she ran with it. While reading this implausible book, I discovered how important it is that if you want to reach your goals, it’s imperative to believe in yourself. Once you have this quality, you’re invincible. “Winning Balance” is certainly a must read. Shawn Johnson is a perfect example of a girl who simply believed in herself and had a dream. After years of hard work, she achieved something most humans would never be able to do and is now a role model to numerous girls all over the world who will hopefully someday become the next Shawn Johnson.

Article By Olivia Browne (@biebeeerxo)

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