Scott Johnson holds up what became four consecutive National Team Championships in men's gymnastics.
Photo by Omaha World Herald

Olympic Gymnast Johnson: Timing Paved Path to Perfection

By NU Athletic Communications

Scott Johnson Represented USA in Two Olympic Games

One of America’s most decorated male gymnasts ever believes in the power of pursuing perfection, but Scott Johnson also believes in the intrinsic value of timing.

To this day, Johnson – the former Summer Olympian who earned a Gold Medal in Los Angeles in 1984 and then performed in Seoul (South Korea) in 1988 – wonders how he was so lucky to arrive in Lincoln in 1980 and four years later be a prominent part of four consecutive Nebraska NCAA National Championship teams.

A popular former Husker who lives in Winter Springs, Florida, Johnson owns and operates several gymnastics training facilities in the Orlando metropolitan area.

“I knew from the start of my collegiate career that I’d made the right decision to attend Nebraska’s program,” Johnson told me. “When I was a senior in high school, Nebraska had the strongest gymnastics team in the country, winning its first NCAA title in 1979 (his senior year in high school). I knew that Nebraska was going to be the best place I can be. I just needed to train with the best coaches and athletes in the country. Thank you Francis Allen and Jim Howard for believing in me!”

Even though Johnson was enshrined into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 2006 as a member of the 1984 Gold-Medal winning team, the Colorado Springs native also joined the U.S. Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 1999.

“This is truly an unexpected honor,” Johnson said. “UNL helped me pursue my dreams of becoming a National and Olympic team athlete. The Athletic Department at UNL was exceptional in allowing us athletes to represent them on a national and international level.  They’ve always been there for us to assist in any academic issues we had so we could train and pursue our dreams.”

Of All the Honors that He’s Received, Scott Johnson Puts His Alma Mater at the Very Top

Despite his induction into multiple Halls of Fame, Johnson (pictured above on the Pommel Horse) says being a member of UNL’s third class is “the biggest honor of them all.”

The rationale for that statement goes beyond the unexpected honor. “I truly enjoyed my entire career at Nebraska,” Johnson said. “I think the most memorable experiences were winning the NCAA Championships four straight times. I liked the bookends best, winning the first as a freshman and winning our fourth national championship as a senior.  Very few athletes in the country get the opportunity to win national championships in four consecutive years.”

For Johnson, an internal drive for excellence has been part of his DNA. “UNL provided me with the tools and the environment to stay consistently motivated,” he said. “The gymnastics program had a reputation of excellence and success and that alone is a very motivational factor. I also believe our reputation has maintained itself throughout the years and carries on to this day.  I feel privileged to have been a part of the legacy.”

Not surprisingly, Johnson is equally amazed how the entire state of Nebraska has such a strong support for UNL. “I’ve never seen such support in any manner,” Johnson said. “Go Big Red is everywhere throughout the state, so it was easy to adapt to the community and focus on our education and our sport – something that certainly appeals to student-athletes striving to achieve all of their goals simultaneously.”  

Johnson learned early on never to give up and always to put in 100 percent – advice he shares with students and children. 

“I have always believed that you must love what you’re doing to become successful at it,” Johnson said. “As a coach, I try to educate my students and their parents about how important this fact really is. If you love what you’re doing and have a true passion for it, then it becomes easy to put forth the effort and stay motivated to achieve your goals.

It helps that Johnson always has been a very positive person and does his best to live a happy and enjoyable life. He embraces that philosophy as he moves forward with his life, encouraging his family, students and staff to live the same way.

It Took Time to Process, But Johnson Now Believes Failure Can Be Positive in Anyone’s Life

An old adage still rings true. Johnson knows what comes easy won’t last long and what lasts long won’t come easy. The best part of his constant pursuit for perfection is learning the value of failure.  

To reach his worldwide goals, Johnson also believes that failure can be a positive thing in anyone’s life. He personally experienced such hurdles in his own gymnastics career. “I had a very poor gymnastics season in 1986,” he admitted. “It was a disaster in my mind. The failure had a huge impact on me never to allow that to happen again. The following year, I became a USA National Gymnastics Champion, and I am certain that my success would not have occurred without that failure.”

Owning and operating several gymnastics training facilities in Winter Springs requires a labor of love. “While working with our students, I do my best to create a positive and enjoyable atmosphere,” Johnson said. “I have my fiancé, Diane attending the event with me, and I’m looking forward to seeing all my UNL family again.” 

Francis Allen, Johnson’s collegiate coach, will attend Friday night’s Hall of Fame enshrinement. Teammates Jim Hartung, Chuck Chmelka and Neal Palmer will attend the event. Johnson’s UNL host family, Dr. Allen Domina and his wife Karen, will be at his table.  “It will be a great reunion,” Johnson said.

One thing is certain. Dealing with the recent floods in Florida helps Johnson and others frame their perspective on what is most important in life.

“We’ve certainly had our challenges with hurricanes in Florida,” Johnson said. “Our family has been very fortunate because we haven’t experienced any serious damage or health issues. My heart goes out to those who were completely devastated from the storms.  We should never take life for granted and we should live each day in the most positive way possible.”

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Editor's note: Bob Brown, a College Football Hall of Fame inductee who also has been enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, is unable to attend this weekend’s ceremonies. Brown will show his appreciation via video from Oakland, Calif. Five of six inductees will visit Lincoln this weekend, including Johnson (1980-83); Karen (Dahlgren) Schonewise, Volleyball (1983-86); Denise Day, Softball (1982-85), Outdoor Track and Field (1985); Rich Glover, Football (1970-72); and Dave Hoppen, Men’s Basketball (1983-86).


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