Monday, November 26, 2012
Shawn Johnson primed for 'Dancing' finals
By Lynn Hoppes
Winning ABC's "Dancing with the Stars: All-Stars" this week will mean more for Olympic gymnastic champion Shawn Johnson than you might think.
"I don't talk about this very much but winning will be like my own little redemption," said Johnson, who has three silver Olympic medals along with one gold medal, all from the 2008 Olympics.
After winning four medals at the Beijing Games, Johnson wanted to do better for the 2012 London Games. She would be only 20 years, still in her prime.
But, in 2010, Johnson tore her left ACL while skiing and worked for the next several years to try to get back into shape. She won a couple of 2011 Pan American Games medals but couldn't make the U.S. Olympic team. She retired this past summer.
"I know this is not the Olympics but I signed on to this show because I didn't successfully make the comeback. I invested every ounce of energy to get into the Olympics," she said. "To get that close and not make it devastated me. To end my career like that, I needed to find something that gave me a confidence boost and help my pride."
And that's what this season has been for Johnson, who returned after winning Season 8 in 2009. Johnson and pro dancer partner Derek Hough started out as one of four athletic couples, then the others -- Helio Castroneves, Emmitt Smith and Apolo Ohno -- were knocked off from the original 13 contestants.
Now Johnson will face off against TV stars Melissa Rycroft and Kelly Monaco in the first all-female finals. They'll each perform two dances -- a favorite number and then freestyle. Johnson will dance with the "Fierce Five" gymnasts from the 2012 London Games. On Tuesday's two-hour finale, they'll have to perform one instant dance.
Johnson, who is now considered the favorite, isn't taking anything for granted.
"Melissa is family to me. She was on Season 8 as well. She has that drive because she hasn't won before," Johnson said. "And Kelly is the first-season winner so she is a strong competitor at well."
Johnson said she can thank partner Hough for helping her drive this season.
"Coming into the show, I tried to put on a front just saying I'm here to have fun, laugh and be merry. I really was at a low point personally," she said. "I had lost the career I had fell in love with and I didn't know where to find that confidence again. Derek gave me that."
And now it's down to the final two nights.
"Physically and mentally, I'm exhausted, as is everybody," she said. "But I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I now am getting motivated and I have the last boost of energy!"