Gymnast Shawn Johnson Drops Out Due To Injury
The same knee injury that spurred gymnast Shawn Johnson, 20, to unexpectedly tackle a shot at defending her 2008 Olympic title has, in the end, forced her to also officially call it quits, as she announced her retirement from competitive gymnastics on Sunday. “This is a really hard moment," Johnson told USA Today. "I still have the heart, drive, and desire to compete. Unfortunately, it has become obvious that my left knee is not able to sustain the demands of gymnastics any longer. All I can do now is gracefully retire and thank everyone who has believed in me and my journey.”
Johnson, one of the stars of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, received her big break when coach Liang Qiao sent an unsolicited tape of her training to national team coordinator Martha Karolyi in an attempt to get her an invitation to a national team training camp, promising that “this kid will help the U.S. team.”
The result was just that, earning a spot as having one of the best rookie seasons ever recorded. Johnson took home the Olympic Gold on the balance beam on the final day of the Beijing Games, brought home silver medals in the all-around and floor exercise, and helped secure the U.S. a silver in the team competition. She also won three gold medals at the 2007 World Championships, second only to Shannon Miller in 1996. Many even began dubbing her the next Mary Lou Retton.
After winning big at the 2008 Games, Johnson took a hiatus from the sport with very little thought of ever returning. In 2009, she participated on the hit ABC TV show Dancing with the Stars (season 8) where she came out victorious as well. Her four-foot-eight frame, spritely spirit, and girl-next-door looks made an instant success of her. But, in 2010, she suffered a debilitating injury while skiing which tore her left knee apart. After getting reconstructive surgery, not once but twice, to fix her torn ACL, MCL, and meniscus, she grappled the possibility of never participating competitively again. Stirred by that thought, she instead began intensive rehab on her damaged leg and announced that she was making an unbelievable comeback at this summer’s London Games.
With this year’s gymnastic team already limited after a cutback from six competitors in 2008 to only five, Johnson’s chances of being selected to compete in the Games was tough and left audiences fraught with debate. Although her talent swept viewers away four years ago, it was unclear whether she would be able to perform the same. In the early trials she had already showed challenges, missing landings that for her were unprecedented. On top of her time-off and knee injury, the contenders for this summer’s U.S Team are proving themselves far beyond expectations and include the likes of Jordyn Wieber and gold medal-winning senior gymnast Nastia Liukin (Johnson’s 2008 teammate).
The news of Johnson’s retirement comes weeks before the U.S. team’s Olympic Trials June 28-July 1, in which the final team will be decided. Still, the always resilient (and studious) Johnson plans to focus on continued involvement in gymnastics, volunteer work, and college, which she hopes to start in fall 2013. "I’m scared to death to know what the future holds," she said. "It’s a road I never thought about. I’m excited as well, ready to start the new journey.”
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