Silver medal, Ninja warrior, finding God: Olympic Gymnast Jonathan Horton shares his story

We sat down with USA Olympic Gymnast, Jonathan Horton as he opened up about being satisfied with Silver, his Ninja Warrior exploits and whether we should expect to see him at Tokyo 2020.

So Jonathan, was it always going to be gymnastics for you, was it the plan all along?

I got started with my sport when I was four years old, I grew up with my mum and dad and my sister who is five years older than me. I was kind of a crazy kid, jumping all over my sister and bouncing all over the place, even climbing up the walls. I actually climbed up a wall in the middle of a store to the ceiling and so my mum took me home that day and told my dad about it, they both agreed that their son was really strange and that I should start gymnastics. So that was really how I got my start.


Could you tell us how you came to know God for yourself?

In terms of my faith we were always a church-going family, I believed in God and was saved when I was ten years old. It was always a big part of my life but the truth is when I went to college it was my first time away from my family and that’s when my faith was tested, so I started doing things that I didn’t typically do at home. I was still training really hard but I definitely wasn’t going to church anymore and it was really easy to step away and forget about Christ for a while.

I thought I could do it all by myself and so there were a lot of ups and downs in my career and towards the end of my time at college, I had been dating my now-wife for a while, that’s when her and I together said that we needed to get closer to God. We wanted to challenge one another to be better for Christ and it was during those years that my life came together, I made my first Olympic team, my gymnastics was going amazingly and it all came down to letting go and so whenever I let God take control of my life that’s when I was the best I had ever been.

So I share my faith with others all of the time and just remind others that you have a plan, we all want to do big things in your life but the truth is that God has the best plan and there will be up and downs. He is going to test us to see how important our faith in him is, we are going to hit rock bottom every now and then but it’s one hundred percent a question of, can you remove fear? Christ tells us that we aren’t supposed to be fearful but trust that he is in control. So I don’t need to be afraid of tomorrow, I know that God has got my family and my gymnastics career.

So it’s fair to say then that you see your gymnastic ability as a gift from God, it’s no accident?

Absolutely, I believe that everyone has spiritual gifts from God, he has given us different abilities, some great speakers and motivators, some are great at sports, some are great teachers, great mothers, great fathers and so we need to take the passion that God has given us and use it to further his Kingdom. I think that God gave me the ability to be a good gymnast and it is what I have passion for, so with that ability I have worked as hard as I can and now I get to have conversations with guys like you. As a result of what I have accomplished and because of my relationship with God.


So recently you missed out on the chance to go to Rio because of a shoulder injury, how tough was that to take?

Yeah that was one of those challenging times, my goal from a young age was to be an Olympic champion, I was so blessed to go to the Olympics in 2008 and win a bronze and a silver medal. It such an amazing moment but then in London my Olympic experience didn’t go so well and I told myself at 30 years old it was going to be hard to make 2016 but I wanted to give it another shot to win a gold medal.

It was February 2016, just six months before the Olympics and I was training and I felt a pop in my shoulder when I was in the best shape of my entire life. I tore my rotator cuff and I knew at that point that my Olympic run was over at that point and it was one of those times where it is easy to be angry about it after working so hard and doing everything right. I had to pray about it and think, ok God this is another one of those moments where you want me to one hundred percent trust you and what was amazing is that as soon as I let go of the pity and being sad for myself, I had all of these really cool opportunities through getting hurt.

I got to go and speak to people and share my story, I was asked by NBC to come and be one of the commentators for the US feed of the Olympics which was amazing. I didn’t get to go to Rio to compete but the blessing that God gave me was awesome, now would I have loved to go to the Olympics and win gold medals like Max Whitlock? Yes, but there were other great things that happened because of my injury.

You had a great time at the Beijing Olympics in 08, grabbing Silver, proudest moment to date?

Yes Beijing was probably my greatest moment as a gymnast, we were like brothers competing for one another and I can’t explain it. When we got there I was shocked and blown away with how amazing that Olympics was. Winning the silver was great but for me being able to stand on top of the podium with the team for my bronze was amazing because we all knew that we had done it together.


I have to ask about American Ninja Warrior, firstly what were you thinking and secondly how did you get on?

It is so much fun, I love to challenge myself and it is just a really fun show. The first time I watched it I thought to myself that I could do that but in reality it is so much harder than it looks. The obstacles are really big and I know that all over the world they have the show now but here in the US they do it at night. So as soon as the sun goes down they start filming the show and then as soon as the sun comes up they stop. This meant that when I did it it was about 4am in the morning, it is crazy. I had so much fun that I am going to try it again this year.

So I think I am the shortest ever person to make it up the 14ft wall but yeah I did really well, I didn’t make it to the final though. They take fifteen people to the finals and I was number sixteen and so that’s why I am going to try again this year and make it to the final. Only one person has ever won the million-dollar prize, which I am not sure I could ever do but I just love finding other things in life that are a lot of fun.

Where do you hide your medals?

I have a little safe actually, I used to have them hanging in a room but it made me nervous. If someone took them I would be so upset!


Away from gymnastics what teams or sports do you follow?

Yeah I really like American Football, it is huge here and it is actually growing a little bit in GB! You guys actually get more people showing up for the games than we do over here in the United States. There are a lot of rules so I didn’t like football for a while but then I started to watch and understand it and now it is a lot of fun. I also follow other small sports like Ultimate Fighting, Boxing and extreme sports, like all of the Red Bull stuff, it’s fascinating and I would love to do it.


How does God feature in your pre-event routine, have any set disciplines?

Well there is two things that I do, before every routine I kneel down and I pray because I really believe in the power of prayer. I think that there is a lot of people that believe in prayer in front of others are afraid that they will laugh at them for saying a prayer, I am not afraid to do it because it is important for me to know that God is with me no matter what and it eases my mind. The other one is that I always have my bible on me, I feel like my bible is my shield, no matter where I go I always have it. I don’t claim to be a bible scholar but I just know the power of it and what my saviour has done for me.

Will we see Jon Horton in Tokyo?

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