Thursday, November 5, 2009

Shawn Johnson

Shawn Johnson was born on January 19,1992 in Des Moines, Iowa.  She began participating in gymnastics at the age of 3.  She is the only child of Doug and Teri Johnson.  She has lived a typical life compared to that of other elite gymnasts.  She went to public school up to Spring 2010 and is finishing her high school career with a private tutor.  She moved to Los Angeles in the spring of 2009 to appear on "Dancing with the Stars". 

Her career as an elite gymnast began in 2004 when she competed in the Junior Olympics.  She finished fourth in the all around and came in first place on the balance beam.  She also achieved second in the floor competition.  In 2005 her coach, Liang Chow, reached out to the National Team Coordinator.  He believed that Johnson was meant to be on the National Team.  Soon after receiving the video that Chow sent, Marta Karolyi sent Shawn an invitation to join the National Team's training camps.  As a junior elite she qualified as a Junior International Elite on her first try.  She participated in the U.S. Classic in 2005 and gained world wide attention as she placed third in the competition.  Later on in 2005 she participated in the National Championships.  Unfortunately a fall on the balance beam in her first day caused her to place tenth in the competition.  She was on the competition circuit again in 2006, but this time she added several new tricks to her routine.  She added a Jaegar, a full in back out dismount, and a double twisting double back.  Two of these are considered top level difficulty.  She participated in the U.S. Junior National All-Around Championship and took first place with a score that surpassed everyone, even her senior elite competitors.

In 2007 she became a senior elite competitor and began her adult career.  In her pre-world competitions she showed off more new skills including a double twisting double layout dismount.  In the Tyson American Games she won the all around competition.  Later that year she competed in the Pan American Games and won four gold medals.  The medals were awarded for team competition, all around, balance beam, and the uneven bars.  She also received a silver medal for her performance in the floor competition at the same event.  The final pre-worlds competition was the U.S. Visa National Championships.  She won the all-around and beat out two time champion Nastia Liuken as well as Shayla Worley.  The first world championship competition was the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships.  She represented the U.S. along with Nastia Liuken, Shayla Worley, Alicia Sacramone, Ivana Hong, and Samantha Peszek.  In the preliminary competition Shawn qualified to advance to the all around, balance beam, and floor competition.  She scored well with the exception of a fall on a dismount from her uneven bars routine. She was the only gymnast on the U.S. team to compete in all four events.  This wound up being the second U.S. team to win the gold medal in this competition.  Johnson won gold medal in the floor event even with an out of bounds stumble on her first pass.  She won gold in the all around competition.  She was the fourth American to do so. 

2008 brought out the pre-Olympic competitions.  Shawn attacked these with the same skill and determination that she used in all of her previous competitions.  The American Cup was held on March 1 in Madison Square Garden and she competed in the vault, floor competition, and the balance beam.  She took first place in each of these competitions, but scored second in the all around competition behind Nastia Liuken.  The next competition was in Jesolo, Italy and Johnson was representing the U.S. again along with Jana Bieger, Olivia Courtney, Chelsea Davis, Brittany Stone, and Samantha Peszek.  The U.S. team did exceptionally well and took gold in both the junior and senior competitions.  Shawn won the all around individual competition with top scores in every event she participated in.  In June of that year she participated in the U.S. National Championships and won the all around competition.  She beat Nastia Liuken by one full point. She also won the floor competition as well.  At the end of June she attended the Olympic trials in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Johnson won the all around competition with Nastia Liuken achieving a very close second.  Both of them were immediately named to the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team. 

The 2008 Summer Olympics took place in Beijing, China.  The U.S. team took silver for team competition.  Shawn competed in floor, balance beam, vault, and the uneven bars competition.  Shawn also took home the silver medal in the individual all around competition.  Her constant competition, Nastia Liuken, took home the gold.  This combination was a first for a U.S. Olympic gymnastics team.  It was only the fourth time an individual country took home both the gold and silver medal in the individual all around competition.  Shawn took home the silver in the floor exercise, and the gold medal on the balance beam.  This was another event in which Shawn and Nastia both dominated.  Nastia won the silver medal in this event.  This wrapped up her 2008 gymnastics season and she took time off. 

In the beginning of 2010, Shawn tore her ACL while on vacation.  She had surgery to fix the ACL the next month.  She decided that she was going to make a return to gymnastics and set a goal of making the 2010 Olympic team.  She later released a video showing some of her new tricks and making the announcement that her new had fully recovered.  She is still currently training for the Olympics.

She has won numerous awards outside of gymnastics including several ESPY's, or an Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly award.  She has received the Longines Prize for Elegance, Teen Choice Award for best female athlete, and she has a life sized statue honoring her in the Iowa Hall of Pride in Des Moines.  At 19 years old Shawn Johnson is one of the most accomplished gymnasts of her time.