Pressure’s on, Shawn

Shawn Johnson appears to be back on track.

After her first senior international defeat at last weekend’s American Cup, the Des Moines, Iowa native bounced back by winning her first all-around title of 2008 as the U.S. defeated Italy, Spain and Poland in a “fun” meet this weekend in Jesolo, Italy, about 20 miles northeast of Venice.

Johnson reportedly did not throw her Amanar vault, which she fell on at the Cup.

Not that she needed to. Her closest competition, 2006 World Champion Vanessa Ferrari, performed only a full-twisting Yurchenko and finished more than one and a half points behind Johnson, who apparently had some kind of stumble on floor exercise (15.0). Up-and-coming American Samantha Peszek, third at the American Cup, was third at this meet as well. Complete results are on International Gymnast Magazine’s website

More thoughts on Johnson’s performance at the American Cup, previously unposted:


So did she or didn’t she cave to the pressure at last weekend’s American Cup?

Somehow, it’s fitting that the site of Johnson’s first big senior international victory is the site of her first big international, um, non-victory.

But one has to put things in perspective as well: Johnson attempted far more difficulty than anyone else. Yes, she fell on vault. Yes, she looked a little wobbly on her double-double on floor. Johnson does occassionally have a fall (Remember the 2007 American Cup, that first great victory? Remember also that of the four beam routines she did at the 2007 Worlds, only two of them were error-free?)

The thing about Johnson is that she’s human, like everyone else. And she should be entitled to an off day every once and awhile. Whether or not the media gives her that luxury will be a different story. They’ve latched on in a similar way that they latched onto Kim Zmeskal in 1992.

A sampling of pre-American Cup headlines:

— “World waits for Johnson to set bar” (Des Moines Register)

— “Shawn Johnson’s balancing act” (L.A. Times)

— “Forget the calendar, Americans’ quest for Olympic gold begins now” (USA Today)

There was also that winning remark from NBC commentator Al Trautwig: “Something weird may happen today. Shawn Johnson may come to an event, compete and not win.”

That’s a lot for anyone to deal with, no matter what they’re vaulting.

(I wonder if this negates my thesis that tossing an Amanar, even if one falls on it, is the be all and end all of the Olympic all-around. Given that Nastia Liukin has as much more difficulty on bars as Shawn does on vault, do they cancel each other out?)

What Johnson doesn’t seem to have is the hindrance her idol Kim Zmeskal did in 1992 — the spectre of someone equally talented and dynamic waiting in the shadows for just the right moment to give the performance of her life.

No, as we move through 2008, there are no Shannon Millers hiding in dark corners, biding their time and being talked about as the underdog. The sport has been so magnified that anyone who has a chance of making the team has been inspected by Marta Karolyi and subsequently dissected by the media.

Nevertheless — pressure’s on, Shawn.

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8 Responses to “Pressure’s on, Shawn”

  1. northernriver Says:

    From what I’ve read, Shawn’s edge over Nastia isn’t the Amânar; it’s her A-score on floor and beam.

  2. rickmccharles Says:

    From what I heard, the fall on Vault at America Cup was a fluke.

    With Ferarri “hurting” for whatever reason, Shawn is clearly the favourite for the Olympics.

  3. northernriver Says:

    Re: my previous comment–the Amânar won’t be an advantage if Nastia goes through with her projected 7.7 A-score bar routine–that is what I mean.

  4. Crunchy Frog Says:

    Well, Lyukin has to actually hit her UB set first…

  5. Amanda Says:

    This sounds really bad, but I noticed after watching footage that Shawn seemed to be left out of things with the team at the meet. Like the other 3 talked while Shawn just kinda hung out near them. I get the impression that they’re not especially nice to her and I’m guessing that that aspect is more difficult than actually being the “next big thing”. It kind of reminded me of how Chellsie always seemed left out and I’ve always heard rumors about how Nastia doesn’t like Chellsie; it seems like the same situation with Shawn.

  6. kitto Says:

    well too much pressure is really on her and she should not only worry on liukin bacause many gymnasts are really steping now for teh AA like the chinese and nistor. Nistor has now a new UB set with a 7.2 A score and with upgrades of her BB and floor. the romanian head coach even said that they are developing her VAult w/c is her weakest.

  7. Tasha Says:

    yea i agree with amanda; at am cup, shayla and sam wud kind of follow nastia and they wud be like a trio, where johnson was kinda on the side, it might be cause shes younger i guess.

    and about the whole start value thing: on beam i wud say nastt and shawn r about equal because the tenth lead that shawn has in difficulty, nast def makes up for in execution. on vault, shawn will only have a .7 lead on nast, whereas on bars nastia has a 1.5 (!!!!!) lead over shawn. finally, on floor nast is behind by .2 but i think the bar routine closes the gap.

    finally the chinese superstar jiang has successfully competed an amanar and a 7.2 bar routine. it will take a hell lot of upgrading for shawn to overcome these two

  8. Shawn Says:

    As from what i think,
    shawn is one of the best all-around gymnasts.
    she already got the 4th all-around women gymnast achievment.
    after SHANNON MILLERS, so that means she is good enough.

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