Kathy Johnson

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Kathy Johnson Clarke
Personal information
Full name Katherine Ann Johnson
Born September 13, 1959 (1959-09-13) (age 58)
Oak Ridge, Tennessee, U.S.

Katherine Ann Johnson (born September 13, 1959),[1] also known as Kathy Johnson Clarke, is an American commentator and retired artistic gymnast. She is notable for being one of the first American gymnasts to win a major international medal, and for her longevity and tenacity in remaining in the sport.

Gymnastics career[edit]

Johnson was born in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.[1] She began gymnastics at the age of twelve; a relatively late start for an elite gymnast. Within four years, however, she had progressed to competition at the elite level, placing 42nd at the 1975 AAU National Championships. In 1976, she finished in 23rd place at the US National Championships and twelfth at the Olympic Trials.[2][3]

In 1977, however, Johnson began to achieve great success in the sport. She won the 1977 American Cup, took a silver medal in the all-around at the NHK Cup in Japan, and won the floor exercise gold and the all-around silver at the 1977 US Nationals. She continued to improve in 1978, becoming the US National all-around champion and winning the silver medal at the American Cup.[citation needed]

At the 1978 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Strasbourg, Johnson placed eighth in the all-around—an excellent finish for an American gymnast at the time—and won a bronze medal on the floor exercise, tying with Romania's Emilia Eberle.[3][4]

In 1979, the Supersisters trading card set was produced and distributed; one of the cards featured Johnson's name and picture.[5]

After her win, Johnson remained a vital member of the US team, helping the squad achieve a sixth-place finish at the 1979 Worlds. However, problems with her verbally abusive coach, who pressured her to lose weight and train even when she was seriously injured, took their toll, both physically and emotionally. Struggling to complete her University studies and stay competitive in a sport that was increasingly embracing younger, lighter girls, she developed bulimia.[4][6]

Johnson was further disheartened when the United States decided to join the boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. She had placed second at the Olympic Trials, had been named the team captain of the American squad [7] and had been considered a legitimate contender for success at the Games.[2][4] After relocating to Southern California to train at SCATS with Don Peters, Johnson's fortunes and spirit improved. By 1983 she was representing the US at the World Championships again; placing eleventh in the all-around and qualifying to the floor exercise event final.[citation needed]

In 1984, at the age of twenty-four, Johnson earned a spot on the US team for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. She was elected the team captain.[8]

In addition to winning a silver medal with the squad, she won an individual bronze on the balance beam. In doing so, she became the second American female gymnast to medal in both a Worlds and an Olympics. Her teammate, Julianne Mcnamara, became the first American gymnast to hold that distinction, having won a bronze medal on the uneven bars at the 1981 World Championships and winning the gold medal (tied with Ma Yanhong of China) on the uneven bars one day before Johnson won her medal on beam.[4]

Eponymous skills[edit]

Apparatus Name Description Difficulty
Balance Beam Johnson Switch leap 1/4 to side leap/straddle pike C

Post-retirement life and career[edit]

After the Olympics, Johnson retired. Her focus turned quickly to television; less than a year after her Olympic win she appeared as a guest star on the children's show Kids Incorporated. Since the late 1980s she has worked as a sports commentator for ABC-TV and ESPN, often covering major gymnastics events such as the World Championships. She also served as the technical advisor for Lifetime Television's film Little Girls in Pretty Boxes.[9]

Johnson has been involved in several initiatives to improve conditions for gymnasts and other world-class athletes, and has spoken publicly and lectured about her struggle with bulimia and her experiences in gymnastics.[6]

She is a member of the Advisory Committee for Justice for Athletes, an organization supporting the emotional health of young people in sports,[10] and is an Olympic Athlete Ambassador for the Foundation for Global Sports Development's Culture, Education, Sports and Ethics Program.[7] She is also on the National Athletic Advisory Board for Athletes for a Better World.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Johnson is married to actor Brian Patrick Clarke. The couple has one son together, Sean (born March 1998), as well as an older son, Cary (born August 1980), from Brian's previous marriage.[8]


  1. ^ a b Evans, Hilary; Gjerde, Arild; Heijmans, Jeroen; Mallon, Bill. "Kathy Johnson profile". Olympics at Sports-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved November 13, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Gerard Eskenazi,"Johnson Makes her Choice", New York Times, March 13, 1978.
  3. ^ a b List of competition results, gymn-forum.net; accessed December 31, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d Little Girls in Pretty Boxes, Joan Ryan, 1995, Doubleday, New York; ISBN 0-385-47790-2
  5. ^ Wulf, Steve (2015-03-23). "Supersisters: Original Roster". Espn.go.com. Retrieved 2015-06-04. 
  6. ^ a b "When the 'perfect' body isn't good enough", The Washington Psychiatric Society, July 2003.
  7. ^ a b "Kathy Johnson Clarke" Archived 2012-04-13 at the Wayback Machine. Culture, Education, Sport and Ethics, 2008
  8. ^ a b ""IG Online Interview: 1984 U.S. Women's Team"". Archived from the original on August 4, 2004. Retrieved 2007-09-23.  International Gymnast, July 18, 2004.
  9. ^ Little Girls in Pretty Boxes, Internet Movie Database; accessed December 31, 2017.
  10. ^ List of Advisory Board members, Justice for Athletes Archived 2007-11-13 at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^ List of Advisory Board members, Athletes for a Better World website; accessed December 31, 2017.

External links[edit]