The United States always assembles a very strong women’s gymnastics team to compete in the summer Olympics. This 2012 summer Olympics in London, England will be no different, but sadly one key member of the 2008 U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team won’t be there.
On June 3, 2012 Shawn Johnson, at the ripe young age of 20 and just three days before the U.S. Nationals were set to begin in St. Louis, announced her retirement from competitive gymnastics.
“This is a really hard moment,” Johnson said. “I still have the heart and drive to compete, but unfortunately my road has been cut short. It’s obvious my knee will not allow me to be in gymnastics any longer. All I can do is gracefully retire.”
In January 2010, she tore her ACL in a skiing accident and underwent reconstructive knee surgery a month later.
Still, her contributions to the successes enjoyed in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China can never be underestimated. Johnson and teammate Nastia Liukin pushed each other increasingly harder and harder four years ago, taking a combined nine medals home while representing team U.S.A. Johnson, a native of Des Moines, Iowa, won three silver medals and one gold, and played a huge role in helping the U.S. team win the overall silver medal in the team competition.
Throughout her gymnastics career, which dates back to age three, Johnson has always been considered “elite” talent. She began serious competition in 2004, and quickly became a crowd favorite at the Junior Olympics National Championships, where she tallied gold on the balance beam, silver in floor competition, and fourth overall.
Johnson placed third the following year at the U.S. Classic and began to receive serious attention as an Olympic hopeful. In 2006, as a junior elite competitor, she won the Junior National All-Around Championship, and posted higher scores than any of her senior elite counterparts.
Johnson says she’ll be in London for the Olympics, but will be sitting in the stands to cheer on her former team. Her absence will be sad for gymnastics fans everywhere, but her presence in London will definitely be motivating for the athletes who will be competing. After all, Shawn Johnson is the very embodiment of individual achievement and team spirit.