It took me a few years for my body to truly adjust. Now I feel better than ever about how I look, and my body image is confident. I would tell others not to get too caught up in other people's opinions. Be confident in who you are.
Competitions can be frightening. Even practices can be frightening, as gymnasts are asked to perform dangerous skills every day. Did you pray during practices, or during competitions? If so, what were those prayers like?
Like I said earlier, I prayed before and after every competition. I prayed for my teammates. I prayed for safety and for God to help me perform the best routines I was capable of performing. I prayed with teammates and family before competitions.
You reached the highest pinnacle of the sport: an Olympic All-Around gold. Did you imagine from the beginning that this was God's will for you?
I definitely never started the sport of gymnastics thinking I could or would make it to the Olympics. And, never did I think I would be the All-Around Olympic Champion. It was something I dreamt about as I got older. But it seemed like an impossible dream!
Of course, I prayed that someday I would make the Olympic team and win a medal, but I didn't know that was what God actually had planned for my life. But, I am so thankful that God had a big plan for me.
The Olympics must have been an incredible experience. Was your faith a part of that experience?
I prayed a lot during the Olympics. It was so nerve-wracking, and so hard being away from your support system. God gave me the peace during this difficult time.
When I was up on the podium, and the gold medal was placed around my neck, I thanked God a million times for making my dreams come true.
Becoming an elite gymnast requires an extraordinary amount of work and sacrifice. You face danger and injury -- you yourself broke an elbow, and retired from the sport with bulging discs in your back. You face psychological pressures that can leave their mark on you. Looking back, is it all worth it? Is gymnastics good for the young women who compete at the highest level?
I am sure there are a lot of opinions out there on this question. For me, I definitely think the positives outweighed the negatives.
The sport taught me lessons that everyone should learn, and made me a better person. In sport or in anything else, there are going to be difficult times, negatives and positives, sad times and happy times, failures and successes. Your character is formed by how you deal with the ups and the downs. If you are passionate about something, it is always worth the risk.
The psychological mark left on me was positive, positive, positive!!! I loved the sport of gymnastics then, and I still do. Finding something you love passionately is worth a lot of sacrifices.
Finally, you have become a professional singer, and you are earning many fans who know you as a singer but not as a gymnast. Do you bring your gymnastics experiences -- and do you bring your faith -- to your work as a musician?
My gymnastics experiences and faith are a part of my life every day. I use them in everything I do. Gymnastics gave me the dedication and commitment to work hard at anything I want to pursue.
I write songs that are close to my heart. I write about the positives and negatives in my life. Writing music is my way to process the feelings I have, whether sad or happy. I co-wrote my very favorite song, "Here I Am," about my gymnastics journey. The gymnastics journey, and the song about it, are very close to my heart.
This article is featured at Patheos' Faith and Sports Portal. Similar articles can be found in the series on Gymnastics, Faith and Olympic Glory. The interviewer, Timothy Dalrymple, tells of his own gymnastics journey in "The Olympic Promised Land."