Carol Johnston

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Johnston, Carol
Personal information
Born (1958-03-10) March 10, 1958 (age 61)
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Alma materCal State Fullerton, USA
Years active1970-1980
Height4 ft 10 in (147 cm)
Spouse(s)Scott D. Koniar
SportWomen's Artistic Gymnastics
DisabilityNo arm below right elbow (from birth)
College team
Coached byLynn Rogers (1977-1980)
Achievements and titles
National finals
  • WCAA 1977 balance beam conference champion
  • AIAW 1978 All-America honors beam
  • AIAW 1978 All-America honors floor exercise
  • NCAA 1978 second place beam
  • NCAA 1978 second place floor exercise
Updated on 19 March 2016.

Carol Johnston (born March 10, 1958) was a Canadian competitive gymnast, born without a right arm below her elbow. Despite her disability, Johnston became a collegiate gymnastics champion, and was featured in Disney's 1980 TV film "Lefty".[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Carol Johnston was born on March 10, 1958 in Calgary, Alberta. At first she planned on going into figure skating. The only reason that she started gymnastics was to strengthen her legs for figure skating. She got really into gymnastics and fell in love with it. So at the age of 12, she put her mind and soul into gymnastics,[3] training at the Altadore Gymnastics Club in Calgary.[4] During a visit to Canada in 1976, gymnastics coach Lynn Rogers was introduced to Johnston and reportedly was "blown away" when he first saw her,[5] offering her a spot to join the gymnastics squad at California State University, Fullerton, which she did.[6]


In 1975, Johnston performed in the Canada Winter Games and the following year she competed at the Junior Olympics in Montreal and at the Hawaii Invitationals.[3] After that, she competed four seasons with the Titans at Cal State Fullerton from 1977-1980. As a Fullerton Titan, she became Western Collegiate Athletic Association conference champion on the balance beam in 1977, runner-up in the NCAA meet at Seattle, in both beam and floor, in 1978, and was two-time-All-American as awarded by the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women on balance beam and floor exercise.[4][5] Also in the first three seasons in which she competed for the Titans, the Cal State Fullerton gymnastics squad compiled a record of 45-0 in meets.[6] In 1979, she was determined to win the gold at the NCAA championships, training her hardest that season. Unfortunately, she tore her anterior cruciate ligament during a fall from uneven bars in the warm-up for a competition against UCLA, was unable to finish the meet, had her leg in a cast for eight weeks and was sidelined for the season. It was when she got this injury that she said she truly felt disabled. After her injury, she made a comeback for the 1980 season, but re-injured her knee again, underwent major knee reconstruction surgery and had no other choice but to stop competitive gymnastics.[3][6]

Life after retirement from competitive gymnastics[edit]

Johnston graduated from California State University, Fullerton in 1981 and in 1988 graduated with a Masters in physical education with a specialization in sports psychology from Cal State.[3] She settled in California, worked in human resources and personnel management, taught gymnastics part-time, and did some public speaking.[1][5][7]

In 1992, Johnston was given the Outstanding Achievement Award by the Orange County Committee for Employment of Persons with Disabilities.[7]

In October 2013, she was inducted into Cal State Fullerton Athletics Hall of Fame,[6] where it was revealed[8] that she now faces a new challenge having been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2012, but with the support of her husband, Scott D. Koniar, and friends tries to have a life as normal as possible.[5]


In 1979, a documentary short on Johnston was made by Disney, entitled The Truly Exceptional: Carol Johnston that was shown in schools; this was one in the series of The Truly Exceptional by Walt Disney Educational short films, aiming to show how people live with disabilities.[9] That short was later made into an expanded version[10] that first aired on 21st Sept. 1980 on NBC's Disney's Wonderful World, as the TV movie "Lefty".[2][11]

In 1982, she was the subject of a book by Pete Donovan titled Carol Johnston: One-Armed Gymnast.[12]

Johnston says that she was born with drive due to her disability, and never felt sorry for herself (being more concerned about being short at 4-foot-10).[6] Many people have been inspired by her story and positive attitude, such as other gymnasts with similar disabilities,[7] as well as others who realize that their own struggles are not nothing compared to living with a disability like hers.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Cal State Fullerton Department of Intercollegiate Athletics (28 October 2008). "Former Titan Gymnast Returns to Her Alma Mater". Titans Cal State Fullerton. Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Johnston's a 'real' cinderella". Google News Archive Search: Supplement to the Spartanburg Herald-Journal. 20 September 1980. Retrieved 2 September 2010.
  3. ^ a b c d Whatever Happened to Carol Johnston? Archived May 17, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 13 Sept. 2010
  4. ^ a b Carol Johnston, 1-armed Gymnast. Retrieved 14 May 2010
  5. ^ a b c d Fader, Mirin (14 October 2013). "Beyond the beam". Orange County Register. Retrieved 18 March 2016.
  6. ^ a b c d e "HALL OF FAME: Gymnastics All-American Carol Johnston". Titans Cal State Fullerton. Cal State Fullerton Department of Athletics. Retrieved 18 March 2016.
  7. ^ a b c Berkshire, Kim Q. (11 June 1993). "Gymnast Was Reluctant, but Ideal, Inspiration - Reflection: Ex-Titan, born with one arm, was a winner". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 18 March 2016.
  8. ^ "Carol Johnston, Inducted 2013 Cal State Fullerton Athletics Hall of Fame" (Video). Kristi Starkey. Retrieved 18 March 2016.
  9. ^ "Educational Shorts". The Encyclopedia of Disney Animated Shorts. Retrieved 18 March 2016.
  10. ^ "Disney A to Z - Lefty (Television)". D23. Disney. Retrieved 18 March 2016.
  11. ^ "Picks and Pans Review: Lefty: the Carol Johnston Story". Archive - People Magazine (Vol. 14, No. 12.). 22 September 1980. Retrieved 18 March 2016.
  12. ^ Donovan, Pete (1982). Carol Johnston, the one-armed gymnast. Chicago: Childrens Press. ISBN 0516043234.

External links[edit]