updated 06/04/2012 AT 7:00 AM ET
•originally published 06/04/2012 AT 8:00 AM ET
It’s the daunting but unavoidable question: When you retire at 20, what do you do with the rest of your life?
It’s a wide-open future facing Shawn Johnson, the beloved U.S. gymnast who’s been forced to abandon her comeback from a knee injury and emotionally give up the sport that’s been her life for so long.
But while she’s nervous, Johnson believes she’ll have a fulfilling post-gymnastics career, simply because she works so hard and aims so high.
“I’m scared to death to know what the future holds because it’s kind of a blinded road I’ve never thought about, but I’m excited as well. I’m ready to start the journey,” Johnson said on a conference call about her retirement, reports ESPN.
“Looking to the future, I have many goals. It’s weird. This is the first time in my life where, when I wake up, gymnastics will not be my sport anymore. A normal day was always going to practice at 2:30. Now, it’s a little different. I’m trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life.”
Johnson has ventured beyond gymnastics before, of course – most notably when she competed in, and won, ABC’s Dancing with the Stars in 2009. It’s all about setting goals, she says, and bringing the same laser-like focus to achieving them.
“If anything, my past 20 years have taught me I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. And to really set a bar high,” she says. “It just makes me want to work harder for something that might seem impossible at first, but given the right amount of effort, can come true.”
In the immediate future, Johnson will cheer on her teammates at the London Olympics this summer. She wants to attend college – possibly Stanford or Vanderbilt – beginning in the fall of 2013 or perhaps earlier. She also plans to coach summer camps and do charity work. But whatever she does, she believes she has the right attitude to succeed.
“I think [gymnastics] set me up for a pretty exciting future,” she says. “I’m not going to settle for the easy things.”