Best news for the 2012 Summer Olympics? A comeback for Shawn Johnson.

Gymnast Shawn Johnson announced that she'll try to make the US team for the 2012 London Summer Olympics. Here are four reasons why that is a very good thing.

Shawn Johnson, pictured here at the judges press conference for the Miss America pageant, has said she wants to go to the 2012 London Summer Olympics.

Gymnast Shawn Johnson has announced that she will attempt to qualify for the 2012 London Summer Olympics. This is a good thing for everyone, and for many reasons.

First of all, there is no opening pitch at the Olympics, for which she herself will probably be most grateful. (See her less-than-stellar attempt at an Iowa minor league game here.)

Second (and more seriously), Ms. Johnson is possibly the nicest person on the face of the earth.

Despite what anyone might tell you about French figure skating judges, the Olympics are at their best when those participating embody the ideals upon which the Olympic movement was founded.

Sulking and showboating might be fine on NFL Sunday afternoons or in the cauldron of the NBA playoffs, but in the Olympics. We want to like our athletes. (See: Miller, Bode.)

Yes, medals come first, perhaps. But likeability is a very close second.

So no problem there. Johnson was not only the most versatile gymnast in the world in the Beijing Summer Olympics, she also became the den mother for the US team after it collapsed in the last rotation of the team event, losing any chance for gold.

Not many 16 year olds have the grace and the poise to do that.

Third, if Johnson comes back, she’s going to do it right.

This will not be Brett Favre waffling over whether to give it one more go, sauntering into training camp mere weeks before the first game. What set Johnson apart in Beijing was the depth of her commitment to her sport.

In the end, Johnson’s hugely gifted teammate, Nastia Liukin, who’s best gymnastics can be like unwrapping a gift, won many of the golds that seemed destined for Johnson. But Johnson’s performance was a testament to unshakeable steadiness: one gold, three silvers.

Johnson’s gymnastics is an emanation of her work ethic – a direct line drawn from hours in the gym to moments atop the podium. If she is to come back, she knows the work that is required, and if the past is any indicator, she will not shy away from it.

London 2012 should be Johnson at her best, and that is a delightful prospect.

And last, Johnson is a phenomenal gymnast.

Like figure skating, gymnastics can often be defined by its missteps – the stumbled landing, the slip off the balance beam. Johnson is not immune to this. But she is close.

For Johnson, hard work has yielded nearly flawless gymnastics. At times, it can appear almost mechanical in its precision (which is how Liukin was able to take gold from her twice in Beijing). But as competitors around her slip and stumble, the beauty of her precision becomes apparent.

What she can do is breathtaking. How consistently she does it is mind-numbing.

For Johnson, there surely is no question of “redemption” in London. For those who have met her – and saw her accomplishments in Beijing – such a notion is laughable, almost insulting. True, she was expected to win more than one gold. But what she did accomplish was sublime.

Rather, as with everything that Johnson does, she is doing it because she genuinely wants to – because she loves it. It was clear, even before the Beijing Olympics closed, that she was having the time of her life.

A second opportunity, it seems, was too tempting to pass up.


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