Carol Johnston

Donovan's Carol Johnston, 
The One-Armed Gymnast

Carol Johnston was born on March 10, 1958 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. An aspiring figure skating, she was advised to take up gymnastics, classes she was told would help strengthen her legs. Carol developed a love for gymnastics, and made gymnastics her focus. She was already 12 years old - very late in the Gymnastics world - but progressed rapidly.

In 1975, Carol performed in the Canada Winter Games. In 1976, she competed at the Junior Olympics in Montreal and at the Hawaii Invitations. Shortly thereafter, she enrolled at Cal-State Fullerton for college. "I thought I could improve as a gymnast at Fullerton," Carol said. "I also thought it would be good for me to be out on my own." Improve she did; In her freshman season she became the conference beam champion. 

In her sophomore year she won beam and placed third in floor exercise at her school's conference championships. She and her teammates traveled to Seattle, Washington for the NCAA Championships. Placing second on beam and floor, she earned All-American honours. 

Carol's determination and accomplishments caught the eye of the Walt Disney company. You see, Carol had been born with only one arm. Borrowing a nickname friends had coined for Carol, the inspirational documentary "Lefty" was released.

The documentary details Carol's 1978-1979 NCAA Season. Determined to win gold at the 1979 NCAAs, Carol trained her hardest that season. Fate took a nasty turn however, and she tore her right ACL while warming up for a UCLA vs Cal State meet. The injury was devastating, but provided Carol with insight, "Now I really know what handicapped is."

With her leg in a cast, Carol plowed ahead with conditioning. She was determined to come back as soon as possible. "I have a chance at a title, and I just have to do it," she explained. "That's my goal." 

Coach Rogers with his star gymnast, Carol Johnston. Photo used with the expressed permission of Jack Chance, webmaster of the CSUF Gymnastics page

Carol did come back, but soon after landed low on a tumbling pass, reinjuring her knee. Doctors repaired the knee, but cautioned her that if she ever landed improperly on the knee again that she may never walk again. Carol headed the advice, and quit competitive gymnastics. "Having one arm was never a limitation, but my knee was," Carol explained. The move was hard for Carol, but by continuing to coach gymnastics to young children she was able to remain in the sport. 

In 1981, Carol graduated from Cal State-Fullerton. She immediately enrolled in a Master's program and, two years later, began working in the personnel department of a company in Santa Ana, California. She eventually returned to graduate work at Cal-State, graduating in 1988 with a Master's in Physical Education with a specialization in Sports Psychology. 

Carol currently lives in California, where she works as an employee benefits manager. She is a frequent visitor at home games at Cal-State.

Quotations from Donovan's (1982) Carol Johnston, The One-armed Gymnast, one of the Sports Stars series by Children's Press and also Walt Disney's Lefty documentary.

. This page was created on September 19, 2001.

 

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