Olympic gymnast and Dancing with the Stars alumna Shawn Johnson says she's enjoying her quest for a second Olympics.
"I can't do this for the rest of my life," she says realistically, "so I want to make the most of it while I can."
To be fair, the odds are strongly against the 20-year-old. Thanks to a new rule this year, teams will consist of five gymnasts instead of the six or seven allowed in the past. A severe two-year-old knee injury she sustained while skiing has limited her ability and a new crop of younger talent on the U.S. team is pushing the celebrated veterans. National team coordinator Marta Karolyi has consistently praised the readiness of the younger crop of talent.
The four-time Olympic medalist doesn't expect freebies. While her teammates were off winning team and individual gold medals at the world championships in Tokyo, she was instead competing at the Pan-Am Games in Guadalajara.
Since her gold in Beijing, Johnson has felt the glare of the spotlight, especially when it comes to her weight.
"The tabloids said a lot of hurtful things," she says. "The process broke me down. Too many people put too much emphasis on looks. Critics find it so easy. You're taught from such a young age that you're never good enough. We grow up with that -- comparing, constantly trying to find worth through someone else."
Since mounting an Olympic comeback, she has lost 25 pounds.
"I cut one thing out at a time, whether it was sweets, dairy," she says. "Too many people did things the quick way. I need my muscles. I need to do it smart. Every now and then I'd have a piece of chocolate cake."
While many expect Jordyn Wieber and Aly Raisman to become first-time U.S. Olympians this summer, a new teammate at Chow's gym in Des Moines, Iowa, has also emerged. Gabby Douglas is the new Johnson, a 16-year-old with a winning personality and seemingly no fear. Johnson appreciates the company at the elite ranks, but the transition wasn't easy.
"I never had a teammate at Chow's at that level," Johnson says. "I always had Chow to myself. We're like dad and daughter. Now I see Gabby and I'm like a proud mom. It's great to have her there."
Allyson Felix threw uncertainty into the idea of doubling in the 200 and 400 meters in London this summer, by running a blistering 100 at a Diamond League meet in Doha over the weekend. Felix dashed home in 10.92 seconds, defeating Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the Olympic 100 champion, and Veronica Campbell-Brown, the Olympic 200 champ, both from Jamaica.
"The decision is getting interesting," she said. "People didn't believe me when I said I had the speed for the hundred and the two. Maybe now they know."
Felix has always been a strong 400 runner, but the decision to run both the 200 and 400 at the world championships in Daegu, South Korea may have tired her and affected her results. She won silver there in the 400 and placed third in the 200. Felix acknowledges that the decision won't be hers. She'll leave that to coach Bobby Kersee, who hasn't told her his answer.
"I'm just going to start saying, 'Ask Bobby,'" she says.
At 26, Felix has an astounding resume that includes three Olympic medals, including a gold in the 4x400 relay in Beijing, and eight gold medals over four world outdoor championships. She is still without an Olympic gold medal in an individual event, and she admits she does not want to pile on the meters in preliminary rounds of multiple events at the expense of meeting that goal. In that regard, the 100 might seem a better fit.
"It would be very disappointing for me if that never happened," she said. "I'd be lying if I said I could walk away without that and be satisfied."
Are people conceding a gold medal in the 100 meters to Jamaican superstar Usain Bolt? Wallace Spearmon, a two-time bronze medalist at the world championships, sounded resigned to it when talking about prospects for his own teammate, U.S. record holder Tyson Gay, the oft-injured former world champ. "We're hoping Tyson can recover for second," Spearmon says. So is gold out of reach?
The U.S. hockey team advanced to the quarterfinals at the world championships in Helsinki, beating Switzerland 5-2 on Tuesday to finish with a 6-1 mark in the preliminary round of play. Not since 1939 has the U.S. team built such a strong mark to start the tournament it has not won since 1933. To date, 17 players, including six defensemen, have tallied goals for the U.S., and Max Pacioretty leads the team with 12 points.
Now comes the hard part. The U.S. squad must face Finland, the home team and defending champion, on Thursday. The other games in the quarters will feature Canada against Slovakia, Russia against surprising Norway and Sweden against the Czech Republic.
Marlen Esparza became the first woman ever to qualify for an Olympic boxing team on Tuesday when she won her second-round bout at the world championships in Qinhuangdao, China. The Houston flyweight defeated Luu Thi Duyen of Vietnam 28-13 to secure the decision. As the highest finisher from the Americas region in her weight class, Esparza is guaranteed a trip to London. Lightweight Queen Underwood dropped a narrow 26-25 decision to Norway's Ingrid Egner in her third bout and failed to earn an automatic Olympic berth. She now must await a decision of the AIBA Tripartite Commission to see if she is granted an additional at-large berth.
With applicant cities for the 2020 Olympics gathering for the SportAccord convention in Quebec City this weekend, all eyes are on the decision makers. Representatives from Baku, Azerbaijan; Doha, Qatar; Istanbul, Turkey; Madrid and Tokyo will each make bid presentations to the IOC, which will decide next week whether to keep the field at five or reduce it in advance of the city vote in Buenos Aires next summer.
Enjoy Olympic champions Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers as a beach volleyball team while you can.
"Todd is 38, so it's most likely his last Olympics," says Dalhausser, 32. "I want to go to Rio, so I may have to find a new partner."
Even if Rogers continues through 2013, Dalhausser may be looking at a pair of candidates: Sean Rosenthal and Nick Lucena. Rosenthal and his partner Jake Gibb lost in the quarterfinals of the Beijing Olympics. Lucena was Dalhausser's partner between 2003 and 2005.
The U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame class of 2012 was named this week. The list includes six Olympians (Gail Devers, track; Dan O'Brien, track; Gary Hall Jr., swimming; Kristine Lilly, soccer; Jenny Thompson, swimming; and Lisa Fernandez, softball), one Paralympian (Jean Driscoll, track); one team (2004 U.S. women's softball team); one coach (Ed Temple, track); one veteran (James Connolly, track); and one special contributor (Ted Stevens, sponsor of the Amateur Sport Act). Formal inductions will take place on July 12 in Chicago.