Gold medal gymnast Shawn Johnson talks about the “incredible” feeling of representing the United States at the Olympics


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It's been 16 years since Shawn Johnson, then a 4-foot-11 16-year-old, won the hearts of Americans by winning gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Johnson was the gold medalist on the balance beam and won three silvers on floor, all-around (losing to teammate Nastia Liukin), and team events (Liukin also won silver on the balance beam) .

They were the only Olympic Games in which Johnson would compete. He tore his ACL skiing in 2010 and retired from the sport in the midst of a comeback for the 2012 games. However, he lived the moment he “dreamed of my whole life.”

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Shawn Johnson celebrates her gold medal on the balance beam during the gymnastics apparatus finals at the National Indoor Stadium during the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

Johnson gained the rare opportunity to represent the United States; he uses red, white and blue; and he listens to the national anthem of his country with the Olympic gold hanging around his neck.

“It was the greatest honor of my life at that time,” Johnson said in a recent interview with Fox News Digital, adding that having children has surpassed that experience.

“To be able to wear the red, white and blue, see the flag lowered, listen to the anthem, put my hand on my chest. It was this moment that I had dreamed of all my life. And to be able to do it not only for “For me, but for my coaches, my team and our country, it was a really special moment. It was very special”.

Shawn Johnson after winning

Shawn Johnson, left, and Nastia Liukin of the United States on the podium after the women's balance beam final of the artistic gymnastics event at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, in Beijing on August 19, 2008. (Franck Fife/AFP via Getty Images)

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Johnson will be in Paris this summer for the Olympics with his family in what he described as a “coming full circle moment” that is admittedly “cliché and cheesy.”

But she says she'll be a “giant cheerleader.”

“I feel like it's such a small world that I know the girls through a couple degrees of separation. I'm an old guy. I'm not in it anymore, but I'll be there cheering them on and I'll be the one that says, 'It doesn't matter what you do.' “You've done an incredible job. They're superhuman and I'm just rooting for them.”

Johnson's attendance at the games comes at perhaps the height of women's sports. Women's gymnastics is always something to watch on TV every four years, but this time it's a little different.

Shawn Johnson on the balance beam

Shawn Johnson of the United States in action during her gold medal in the women's balance beam final at the National Indoor Stadium in Beijing, China. (Al Tielemans/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

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“As a mother of a daughter, I'm very excited. I don't know what it means in particular. I love that women's sports are getting the attention they deserve,” Johnson said.

“I believe that every athlete, man or woman, who works their entire life to get to the Olympic Games deserves a platform and the attention that they worked for. I think that being able to get to these Olympic Games with that enthusiasm shared on all platforms, both genres, I think it's really cool.”

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