Shawn Machel Johnson sprang to life on a very cold day in January. Well, actually, she didn't spring for a little bit. Shawn was born with an APGAR score of 0. It took a short while before she got the hang of things, but once she did get going, she took off and hasn't slowed down since. Shawn walked at 9 months without ever taking the time to crawl. She was doing pull-ups in her playpen and climbing out of her baby bed long before she was a year old.
At the age of three Shawn tried dance class, although dance didn't suit her as it wasn't nearly physical enough. Out of desperation, the next attempt to find a release for Shawn's energy was a gymnastics class. BINGO.
Shawn enjoyed 2 years at a local gymnastics club. Friends told her parents about a new gym that opened up close to home. After visiting only once, Shawn couldn't wait to get started at Chow's Gymnastics and Dance. Shawn started attending Chow's within 60 days of the doors opening. They had yet to develop a pre-team or team, so Shawn got to be in on the ground floor of their pre-team and then team. Shawn's coaches, Liang Qiao (Chow) and Liwen Zhuang (Li) could not have been a better fit had they been hand picked. Chow and Li will forever hold a very special place in Shawn's heart.
Memorable moments in Shawn's gymnastics career have been Level 9 balance beam champion, Level 10 Iowa's Gymnast of the year, Level 10 balance beam champion and making the Junior Olympic National team, and qualifying to Junior International Elite status on her first attempt. She won the 2006 U.S. Junior National All-Around with a score higher than any of the senior elite competitors that year. In 2007 Shawn entered the senior division and won every competition. She was the champion at the 2007 Tyson American Cup, won four gold medals and the All-Around at the 2007 Pan American Games, was the National Champion at the 2007 Visa National Championships, and won the All-Around at the World Championships, making her World Champion her first year in the Senior Division.
Shawn has had a great year thus far in 2008. She is bound for Beijing and the 2008 Olympics after coming in first place at the Olympic Trials in June. In May, Shawn was named the National Champion for the second year in a row at the 2008 Visa National Championships. She also won the all-around at a meet in Jesolo, Italy, competing against gymnasts from Italy, Spain and Poland. Shawn was also runner-up at the Tyson American Cup, winning the floor, beam and vault, and coming in second in bars.
She has appeared on numerous TV shows and news programs, including The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Today Show, and was ABC's Person of the Week. She was also a presenter at Frosted Pink, a breast cancer benefit show on television. She has also been in a number of magazines, including Teen Vogue and Vanity Fair, where she posed for famed photographer, Annie Leibovitz. In Iowa, October 17th was deemed "Shawn Johnson Day" by Governor Chet Culver, and in early July a bronze statue was dedicated to her at the Iowa Hall of Pride. Even with all the media attention from around the world, Shawn stays very grounded and focused on having a normal life. Shawn has also been nominated for the 2008 Teen Choice Awards.
Unlike most elite gymnasts who train approximately 40 hours a week and have private tutors, Shawn trains 20-25 hours a week and goes to public high school where she is on the "A" Honor Roll and will be a junior this fall. Shawn, her parents and coaches think it's very important for her to have a life outside of gymnastics and have time for friends, family, hobbies and school activities. Shawn has a passion for school and sets very high expectations for herself. While math is her best subject, English is her favorite. Shawn enjoys writing and uses it as well as art as a way to express her creativity.
Shawn lives in West Des Moines, Iowa, USA, with her parents and her pets; a Golden Retriever and two cats. Shawn's loves are family, friends, gymnastics, and animals. Shawn loves big and lives big, and consequently, Shawn dreams big. And now that she has made the Olympic team, she gets the chance to live her dream and compete for her country with her coach, Chow, who will be a coach for the American Olympic Team. For Chow, it will be a return to his home country, where he was a former Chinese National World Team Co-Captain and the XIV World Cup Master Champion in All-Around in 1990. Chow holds over 30 International Gold Medals and numerous National Championships.