19, 1992 in Des Moines, IA, Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast Shawn Johnson began her athletic career at three years old when her parents enrolled her in gymnastics class after finding her jumping and tumbling off of tables. At six, she joined forces with former gymnast and coach Liang Chow, who went on to steer Johnson to Olympic silver at the 2008 games in Beijing. Training less than others her age, Johnson was able to maintain honor roll grades while attending Valley High School in West Des Moines. Meanwhile, she qualified for Junior Elite Status on her first try, then garnered attention in 2005 when she placed third in the junior division at the U.S. Classic. The following year, she won the U.S. Junior National All-Around Championship. In 2007, she made the jump to the senior division, where she won the all-around at the Tyson American Cup. Also that year, she won four gold medals at the Pan American Games, then won the all-around at the U.S. National Championships - a feat she repeated the following year.
In 2008, Johnson became an overnight star at the Olympic Games in Beijing, where she helped steer the United States to a silver medal during the team competition. Johnson made her mark during the individual rounds, winning silver in the all-around, as well as for her floor routine. Johnson became an instant celebrity, appearing on countless talk shows after the games, then led the Pledge of Allegiance at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. She made a cameo appearance on "The Secret Life of the American Teenager" (ABC Family, 2008- ), then was a member of the Tour of Gymnastics Superstars, which traveled the United States during the fall. After publishing a book Shawn Johnson: Olympic Champion: Stories Behind the Smile in December 2008 and being named fifth on the Associated Press list of top female athletes of the year, Johnson became one of 13 contestants to appear on the eighth season of "Dancing With the Stars" (ABC, 2005- ) and, at age 17, was the show's youngest competitor up until that time. Continuing the tradition of Olympians prevailing on the popular variety show, Johnson would shockingly beat out French actor, Gilles Marini for the coveted disco ball trophy.