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A Teen Olympian Who Has a Lot in Common with You and Me

Mount Laurel, N.J., U.S.A. – Some people wait their entire lives to achieve their life goal. Some, however, have seen their dreams come true at a very young age.

While most teenagers try to balance school, friends, relationships, and family life, these teenagers add competitive sport to their everyday routine.

At the 2008 Bejing Olympics, we have seen many young athletes go for gold. Representing your country, which is an incredible honor, must also be very stressful.

I am 16 years old, and cannot possibly imagine the dedication and hard work it takes to go to the Olympics. These teen sensations made America proud, and watched their fantasies become a reality right in front of their eyes.

But how can these young stars compete against older, more experienced athletes? In the Olympics, being young can be a major plus.

Having a small body is a major advantage in certain sports, especially in gymnastics and diving, which is one of the reasons many competitors in these sports are of a younger age.

The women’s gymnastics team and the women’s diving team from the United States both include a number of teenagers.

Diving into the water from such a high height must be scary, but these pros made it look like child’s play. As I watched these young Olympians compete, I wondered if they are really like normal teenagers. After some research, I found at least one who is.

Probably one of the most famous young Olympians, 16-year-old Shawn Johnson from West Des Moines, Iowa, has been studying gymnastics since she was three.

In Beijing, Johnson won a silver medal in the individual floor finals and a gold medal on the balance beam.

On her website, I learned that she trains 20 to 25 hours a week, unlike many elite gymnasts, who practice around 40 hours a week.

Outside the gym, Johnson is an honor student who has a real passion for school work, her website says. Her favorite subject is English, it says, but she also flourishes in math.

I also looked at her playlist, and realized she likes the same music that most teenagers enjoy, like Jordan Sparks, Chris Brown and The Jonas Brothers.

That helped me understand that despite all the hype and recent fame, she really is just a normal teenage girl like me.

As amazing as it may seem, some of these young athletes are just like you and me. They go to school, love hanging out with friends, and enjoy different hobbies besides their competitive sport.

I have been truly inspired by these young individuals, and realize that you can achieve your dream at any age. With hard work and perseverance, anything is possible. So, all you Olympic hopefuls, keeping fighting and maybe in 2010, you will see your dreams come true, too.

Lauren Haslett is a Junior Reporter for Youth Journalism International

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