8 Things You Might Not Know About Your Favorite Gymnasts
With the Olympic Games in Rio coming up quickly, there’s a lot to get excited about. Between the opening ceremony on Aug. 5 and the closing ceremony on Aug. 21, millions of people across the globe will tune in to see the world’s most talented athletes compete for the gold.
Because if there’s one thing people love, it’s a good, healthy sporting competition. The previous Games, hosted by London in 2012, were an unprecedented broadcasting success, especially among American audiences. Over the course of 17 days, NBC and its affiliates broadcasted 5,535 hours of coverage, attracting nearly 220 million American viewers in total. One of the most popular events at the London Games was women’s gymnastics, with the final competition attracting nearly 30 million viewers.
This year, Smucker's® is a proud sponsor of Team USA, and they're partnering with Aly Raisman and Shawn Johnson to show us what it's like to be a world-class gymnast. Johnson, now retired, competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, where she took home four medals – one gold and three silver. Raisman competed in London in 2012 and won three medals, becoming the most decorated American gymnast at the Games. She's representing Team USA this summer.
Ready to learn more about these inspiring athletes? In partnership with Smucker's®, we've collected some fun facts about Aly Raisman and Shawn Johnson that you might not know.
1. They're Both Dog-Lovers
She might be busy training for the Olympic Games, but Aly Raisman is also making time for her most recent roommate: a Maltipoo named Gibson. The pair met while Raisman was at a photo shoot.
“I knew from the moment I saw Gibson that it was meant to be,” she said in an interview with Us . “My dog Coco recently passed away and my family has been so devastated... Of course, from the second we saw him, we asked about adopting Gibson."
Johnson also says that she's "ridiculously obsessed" with dogs. "They're like people to me!" she told Smucker's®. "I would adopt every single dog on the face of the Earth if I could."
2. Pep Talks & Positivity Are Key
Competing on an international stage — in front of millions of viewers — is enough to make anyone freak out. To get ready for her big competitions, Shawn Johnson would give herself a pep talk to calm her nerves and get herself in the right mindset.
"I would talk to myself and kind of pump myself up saying things like, 'You’ve got this! Breathe. You can do this! You’ve trained for this. You are prepared. Show them what you’re made of,'" Johnson said in an interview with Teen Vogue. "Sounds super cliché, but just positive reinforcements was my go-to. As long as I kept talking, those voices stayed out."
3. Down Time Is Hard To Come By, But So Necessary
With so much training on a daily basis, internationally famous athletes need time to wind down and relax. For Raisman, that can mean anything from putting on her favorite face mask to picking up her favorite book.
“I was just at training camp and I forgot a book and it was driving me nuts," she said. "It’s such a great thing to come back from a really tough workout, lay down, and read."
4. They Have Unique Pre-Competition Rituals
To get to such an elite level, both gymnasts have to show major amounts of dedication, determination, and self-discipline. But that doesn't mean they always follow the rules. Shawn Johnson's biggest guilty pleasure — and pre-competition ritual — is chocolate.
“My coach isn’t going to want to hear this," said Johnson. "But my pre-competition ritual, before every competition, I gotta have a piece of chocolate. I have to stash it, though!”
5. They're Athletes, But That Doesn't Mean They Live In Tracksuits
Though she's usually in bed early to prep for her early-morning workouts, Raisman loves to dress up when she does get the time to go out.
“When you look good, you feel good," she said. "When you put yourself together, it can brighten up your mood a little bit.”
In 2012, she told Us Weekly, "I want to have my own workout clothes line, like leggings and cute jackets in bright and fun colors." Now, it appears that she's delivered on her word, with custom lines of printed socks and leotards fit for any aspiring gymnast.
6. Sometimes They Get Days Named After Them
When she was just 15, Iowa designated October 17 as “Shawn Johnson Day.” Originally from Des Moines, Johnson isn't afraid of showing her hometown pride.
"Iowa is the best state ever," Johnson said. "Even if people just think corn is here."
7. You're Considered A Veteran At The Age Of 22
Raisman is a veteran of the 2012 Olympic Games, where she served as a team captain and came home with three Olympic medals — including a gold medal for her floor routine. Her teammates have taken to calling the 22-year-old "Grandma," which of course, comes from a place of deep respect. Now that she's officially qualified for a 2016 trip to Rio, she'll be leading Team USA in her second Olympic Games.
8. They Like PB&J (Just Like Us)
Let's be honest: when it comes to making a favorite sandwich, everyone has their own particular way of doing it. Turns out, star athletes do, too. When Raisman is prepping her PB&J, she prefers strawberry jam, and makes sure to put both peanut butter and jelly on each slice of bread before bringing them together. "I'm pretty messy, so I kind of just slather it on," said Raisman. "I usually put on more jam than peanut butter!"
Johnson, on the other hand, uses a combination of strawberry and raspberry jams and only one slice of (gluten-free!) bread. She also uses separate knives for the peanut butter and jelly. "I put jelly on half of it, and I try to make it so it doesn't touch ... the peanut butter on the other side," Johnson said. Then, she folds the bread in half and takes a bite so the PB and J can meet at last.
This post is sponsored by Smucker's® , a proud sponsor of Team USA. Share your love for this all-American sandwich by tweeting #PBJ4TEAMUSA . Every tweet you send will help back Team USA, giving $1 to the United States Olympic Committee in support of our athletes and future U.S. Olympic hopefuls. Maximum donation $200,000.