Flame Out on Shawn Johnson's Gymnastics Career

by Paige Feigenbaum 6:08 PM PDT, June 04, 2012
Photo: Getty Images

At the tender age of 20, Shawn Johnson has accomplished more than most do in a lifetime. The Dancing with the Stars champ and Olympic gold medalist is nursing a knee injury, cutting short her dreams of representing Team USA in London.

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The decorated athlete announced her retirement from the sport on Sunday, telling ESPN in a conference call, "This is a really hard moment. I still have the heart and drive and desire to compete. Unfortunately, my route has been cut a little short. It's become obvious my knee is not going to allow me to be in gymnastics any longer and be on that stage competing with the girls. All I can do now is gracefully retire and thank everybody who has believed in me and been part of this entire journey.”

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The lifespan of a gymnast’s career is typically short because of the strain it puts on their tiny bodies. It is unclear if any of the girls who repped the red, white, and blue in Beijing 2008 will make an encore appearance this summer. The complete roster will be selected at the Olympic Trials on July 1 in San Jose, CA on NBC. 

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"Looking to the future, I have many goals. It's weird. This is the first time in my life where, when I wake up, gymnastics will not be my sport anymore. A normal day was always going to practice at 2:30. Now it's a little different. I'm trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life." She does plan to travel across the pond to root on her peers at the Olympics and will pursue a college degree next year, according to ESPN.

If she is healed in time, perhaps Shawn will return to the ballroom for the all-star season of Dancing With the Stars this fall. It’s doubtful that her athletic, competitive spirit is taking an early retirement.