If you follow women’s gymnastics, you know that Shawn Johnson finally got her gold medal Tuesday morning, edging out teammate Nastia Liukin with a fantastic balance beam routine. And the man supporting her is her coach, Liang Chow, himself a member of the Chinese national gymnastics team in the 1980’s. He’s the unsung hero behind her success—and her great attitude.
In the extensive news coverage I’ve seen on Johnson, she refers to her Chinese coach and his wife as “my second parents.” Teri and Doug Johnson, Shawn’s parents, appreciate the important relationship. In an article for the August 2008 issue of Guideposts, Teri recounts Coach Chow’s mastery in managing Johnson’s personality. Other gymnastics teachers were frustrated by Shawn’s hyperactive behavior. Chow, who owns a gym in West Des Moines, Iowa, knew how to harness it. “I love her energy. That’s what you need in this sport.” Teri stated, “He kept her interest by keeping her challenged.”
An athlete of Shawn’s caliber doesn’t come to the Olympics “just for the experience.” The little Iowan wanted some medals, gosh darnit! But despite excellent routines, Shawn just wasn’t pulling in the top-dog scores. You can argue about the judging or the difficulty all you want—it was what it was. Moreover, Johnson had to share a room in Olympic Village with beautiful Russian-American teammate Nastia Liukin, who won the all-around gold. But Shawn showed sportsmanlike conduct that would put most of us to shame. The anti-diva kept congratulating her rivals and trying again. She threw her support behind her teammates. If there were any tears, they were in private. And Coach Chow showed consistent support.
In an article by Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, it was noted that Shawn did show some nerves while preparing for the balance beam final. She flubbed her routine seven times in warm-ups. Coach Chow sat her down to rest, and Johnson came back to win the event with a score of 16.225. She “buried her head in Chow’s chest after her routine. ‘He just said, “Congratulations,” that I deserved it.’”
Coach Chow is a soft-spoken man, who retains a Beijing accent. He doesn’t grandstand and argue with the judges—he just supports and guides his charges. His warm, wise, encouraging coaching is a huge ingredient in Johnson’s success. Congratulations, Coach Chow. Shawn’s victory is your victory, too. Thanks for bringing your values to Olympic gymnastics. When it comes to coaching, you have the touch! We wish you continued success and happiness.
No reactions to display.