UPDATED: Shawn Johnson Wins Gold on Balance Beam!

Updated information on Shawn and the US Women’s Olympic team.

Meet Shawn Johnson. She is the reigning World Champion in Women’s Gymnastics and on the US Women’s Gymnastics team competing in Beijing. Read her biography and see photos and a video of her below.

Shawn is in the lead after the first day of competition at the US Olympic Gymnastic Trials held this weekend in Philadelphia. If all goes as planned, she’ll earn one of the two guaranteed spots onto the U.S. Women’s Gymnastic’s Olympic team.

Two amazing back handsprings into a two-footed layout: Hit.

Massive full-twisting double-back dismount: Hit.

She was, in fact, hitting practically everything including that behemoth, the balance beam! Calm and collected, she stuck every element on the four-inch wide apparatus with ease. A terrific role model to young girls everywhere — including mine — will Shawn make the team? Absolutely! But of course we’ll all find out for certain after final competition on Sunday.

UPDATED: August 10, 2008.

Team USA in Women’s Gymnastics is: Shawn Johnson, Nastia Liukin, Alicia Sacramone, Bridget Sloan, Chellsie Memmel and Samantha Peszek. The three alternate athletes are: Jana Bieger, Ivana Hong, and Corrie Lothrop.

The team qualified for the team finals at the 2008 Olympic Games by finishing second in the qualification round at the National Indoor Stadium in Beijing, China. Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin advanced to the all-around finals. Alicia Sacramone, Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin qualified to compete in individual event finals.

The top eight countries advanced to the team finals. They are in ranking order: China, USA, Russia, Romania, Australia, France, Brazil and Japan.

Johnson and Liukin both advanced to the individual event finals on balance beam and floor exercise. Liukin also will compete on the uneven bars. Sacramone qualified for the vault finals in third place. Johnson and Liukin went one-two in the all-around. Johnson was second on beam and third in the floor exercise. Liukin was third on beam and fourth on floor. Sacramone was fourth on balance beam and Bridget Sloan finished 11th in the all-around, but neither advanced to the final rounds because only two athletes per country may advance to the finals in accordance with International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) rules. The top eight gymnasts in each event and the top 24 in the all-around from the qualification round advanced to the finals.

The women’s team finals are Aug. 13 (10:15 a.m.), with the all-around finals on Aug. 15 (11:15 a.m.). Individual event finals are Aug. 17-19 (6 p.m.).

UPDATED: August 19, 2008 In her final chance for a gold medal at these Olympics, Shawn Johnson hopped up on the balance beam and sparkled in her blue and red leotard, her face unsmiling and serious. Three times, she had finished second at these Games. But for Johnson, the 16-year-old with the blinding smile, that would not be enough.

So she buried her disappointment and hit her routine, sticking to the beam on each landing, as if her feet had glue on them. Afterward, she hugged her competitors from China, then waited for the final two gymnasts to perform.

Neither of them would score higher than Johnson’s 16.225.

On the arena floor, Johnson melted into her coach, Liang Qiao, for a big bear hug. She had dreamed of giving him a gold medal here in his hometown and finally, on the last day of gymnastics competition, she had done it.

“I could tell by the way that he hugged me and the look on his face that he was more proud of me than he’s ever been,�? she said. “I really feel like I made him proud.�?

Her teammate Nastia Liukin, who had beaten Johnson in the all-around, won silver, with 16.025. China’s Cheng Fei was third, with 15.95.

Shawn Johnson Biography

Shawn Johnson was born on January 19, 1992 in Des Moines, Iowa so her age is 16. She is the only child of Doug and Teri Johnson. She just completed her sophomore year at Valley Southwoods High School, where her favorite subject is English.

Shawn had one of the best rookie seasons ever recorded in 2007. In her first year as a senior competitor, she won the all-around at the American Cup, Pan-American Games, US National Championships and World Championships. She is considered a favorite to make the US Olympic team and even to win the Olympic all-around title in 2008. She is unique among elite gymnasts: she only trains 20-25 hours a week. Most elites spend closer to 40 hours in the gym each week.

Shawn Johnson is having a big impact not only in gymnastics, but also in mainstream America. Her always-smiling face can be seen on cases of Coca-Cola and her name can be found on the ballot of Teen Choice 2008’s Female Athlete Award. (Johnson is the first gymnast to ever be nominated for the category.) She has seemingly been unaware of all the buzz that has surrounded her. With a spot on the U.S. Women’s Team there will surely be even more endorsements, magazine covers, TV appearances ahead.

Four more routines Shawn, and then the Olympics!

Shawn Johnson Video

Video: YouTube – the US Nationals and US Olympic Trials and a video from US Olympic Trials