“Isn't that the motivation for everything when you are a 14-year-old guy?” he said.
The girl he had a crush on didn't continue rowing, but Johnson discovered he could make boats go fast.
“It was really a great sport for me and I loved it,” Johnson said.
After failing to qualify for the U.S. National Team on two previous tries, Johnson made it for the first time in 2009. He believes that his blindness actually works in his favor when he is rowing with a crew.
“In some ways, blindness has been an advantage for me because I have to go by what I am feeling in the boat,” he said. “Some people tell me their vision is actually a distraction. I take my blindness as something of a blessing in that regard.”
Both Preuschl and Johnson moved to Oklahoma City after the Oklahoma River became a U.S. Olympic and Paralympic training site for rowing.
They believe their boat is fast enough to win a medal in London. Preuschl said her current crew is faster than the U.S. boat that she was on in 2008, which won a silver medal, but every country has improved.
“Our time from four years ago would be eighth place this year,” she said. “That's how much the competition has gotten better. Every country is faster than they were last year. It's anyone's race, but I feel our crew is really fast. I feel good about that.”
Johnson is confident the U.S. crew can not only medal, but win the gold medal.
“We have a lot of speed this year,” he said. “We are going in looking for that gold medal spot and pretty confident it is within our reach. “