While training for the London Olympics, Abby Johnston listened to a lot of Taylor Swift. The music must have been motivating, because the diver nabbed a silver medal in synchronized diving with partner Kelci Bryant at the 2012 Games.
Once back to real life, however, Johnston admits it wasn’t easy to transition from Olympian to college student at Duke University.
“That fall, it was a really, really tough transition coming back from the Olympics, going back to school — all my friends had graduated, and I was graduating a year later. It was a weird vibe on campus,” the athlete, now 26, tells Us Weekly.
At the time, still in a funk and approaching her 23rd birthday on November 16, Johnston just wasn’t into celebrating. Her mom, Elaine, was worried and went to visit her daughter. “She said, ‘We’re going to make this the best birthday,’” Johnston explains.
“So my mom came down, went into Walgreens and was like, ‘Is there any way I could borrow this cutout of Taylor Swift for my daughter’s birthday?’” the medical student recalls, noting that Swift had just released her 2012 album, Red.
“The manager was like, ‘Sure, that’s kind of hilarious.’ I got out of class and Taylor was standing on the side of my car. And we took her out with us! We took her to Krispy Kreme, we went to bars — everyone thought it was hilarious! They were like, ‘Can we buy Taylor a drink?’”
Since cheering Johnston up, the cutout now mostly stays in her apartment. “My complex has a pool, and Taylor looks out on the pool and people are like, ‘Taylor is in the window!’ People think it’s really funny. They love to borrow it!” Johnston says. “They’re like, ‘I have this thing, I’m doing this video thing for school, is there any way I can bring Taylor?’”
But the Olympian’s interactions with Swift aren’t limited to the cardboard cutout. Johnston sneaked in a meeting with the “Wildest Dreams” singer during a concert stop on her Red tour in Charlotte.
“This kid called and pretended to be my agent and arranged a meet-and-greet with Taylor and I,” Johnston explains. “I don’t even have an agent! But he did it! So then they invited me to go backstage and meet her before.”
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