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Shawn Johnson East calls all-around silver ‘more fulfilling’ than beam gold

Shawn Johnson East poses with the gold medal from the beam final at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Shawn Johnson East took home a haul of four Olympic medals from the 2008 Beijing Games, but only one of those was gold.

On the last day of competition, Johnson East won gold in the balance beam event after coming in second to teammate Nastia Liukin in the highly anticipated all-around final.

“My coach had taught me from day one it should never be about an award, it should never be about the medal or the color. It should be about that way you feel,” Johnson East tells Kelley O’Hara on the latest episode of The Players’ Pod.

After giving what she believed was her maximum effort, Johnson East held her head high after the all-around contest.

“With the all-around … I felt like I gave my absolute best performance, best I could ever have done, and I truly felt like I won silver,” she says.

The press, however, pestered Johnson East with questions about what she could’ve done differently in the loss to Liukin, making her doubt her accomplishment.

“I gave my all and it was my best performance and I won the silver, and I felt emotionally confused by the response of the world,” Johnson says.

When it came time for her beam routine, Johnson East expected her coach to do what he always did after a competition and ask her how she felt about her performance. This time, they didn’t exchange words.

“We both knew it was not my best performance, and I distinctly remember turning and looking at the scoreboard and there was a number one by my name for the gold, and we just looked at each other and started busting out laughing,” Johnson East recalls.

“In a sense, the silver felt more fulfilling because I knew that was my best. And the beam, the gold medal, was incredible to win that for the United States is why I felt proud, but it wasn’t my best.”

Listen to the full episode of The Players’ Pod for more from O’Hara and Johnson East on the gymnast’s iconic career.