Shawn Johnson during the Senior Women's competition on day four of the Visa Gymnastics Championships at Xcel Energy Center on Aug. 20, 2011, in St Paul, Minnesota. / Getty Images file photo
Shawn Johnson officially retired this afternoon from a gymnastics career that saw her rise from a precocious and energetic toddler in West Des Moines to the apex of her sport.
The 20-year-old Olympic champion was attempting a comeback after two knee surgeries, but told The Des Moines Register today: "I still have every ounce of desire and passion to stick with it. But my body isn't allowing it."
Photos: Ultimate Shawn Johnson gallery
Johnson was to compete in this week's national championships in St. Louis, but decided after a Friday meeting that included her coach Liang Chow and national team coordinator Martha Karolyi to pull the plug and move on to the next phase of her life.
"I don't think it will settle in for a while. It's a lot to wrap my mind around," Johnson said of a life without competitive gymnastics. "I'm used to going to the gym every day at 2:30, and now I don't know what I'll do when 2:30 rolls around."
Johnson's gymnastics career started when her mother entered her in classes as a way to expend some of her seemingly limitless energy. Soon, she enrolled in training at a new facility opened by former Chinese national gymnast Liang Chow in West Des Moines. She quickly became the most accomplished athlete at Chow's Gymnastics and Dance.
By 12, she was on the junior national team. She won the all-around at the world championships in 2007 at age 15, and captured three silver medals and one gold the next year at the Beijing Olympics.
But she left the sport for two years, during which her fame increased when she won "Dancing With the Stars," then injured her knee in a skiing accident on her 18th birthday in 2010. A knee reconstruction surgery followed, and Johnson returned to competitive gymnastics last year. She reinjured the knee, had another surgery, and said she could never get back to her previous form.
"It was one setback after another," she said.