The Ottumwa Courier

Iowa Sports

October 15, 2008

Life after Beijing a (gold) rush for Johnson

ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) — Iowan Shawn Johnson has been home a grand total of four days since the Beijing Olympics, she misses her dog and cats terribly, and her schedule is so hectic she needs to look at a calendar just to be sure what day of the week it is.

She wouldn’t change her second place at the Olympics for a second.

“I’m having a lot of fun,” she said Wednesday before the latest stop on the Tour of Gymnastics Superstars. “It is hard to be away so much. I get homesick and stuff, but I don’t know. This is something I’m used to. Or getting used to. ... I love my new life and everything that happened.”

Johnson went to Beijing as the reigning world champion and the favorite to win her sport’s biggest prize, the Olympic all-around title. She wound up second — to teammate Nastia Liukin, no less — but the 16-year-old showed the grace of a champion with her genuine happiness for her Olympic village roommate.

After adding another silver on the floor exercise, Johnson finally got her gold on the balance beam, the last event.

“It was the best experience of my life, and I don’t regret anything that happened or anything I did,” said Johnson, who won a third silver with the U.S. team. “I wouldn’t take anything back, I wouldn’t trade anything. And I’m not disappointed. I’m truly honored and proud of what I did and how I finished and everything that happened. Everything happens for a reason, and I was meant to do that and do exactly what I did.”

Johnson has the kind of gold-medal star power that can’t be diminished by some number on a scoreboard. The record will show she lost, but she did it graciously, without complaint or protest. That, along with that megawatt smile that helped her become one of the faces of the Olympics before they began (and Michael Phelps overshadowed everyone), could be what carries the day now that the flame is out and real life has resumed.

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