Shawn Johnson Returning for 2012 Summer Olympics

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U.S. Olympics fans were treated to a bit of surprising but welcome news this week as gymnast Shawn Johnson announced that she will enter qualification for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Why is this such good news? Well, there are lots of reasons.

First of all, as we all learned while watching the 2008 games in Beijing, Shawn Johnson is just about the nicest person in the world. In an age of pouty athletes who can’t seem to crack a smile in spite of their millions, Shawn Johnson’s upbeat attitude and bright spirit is a breath of fresh air. Many of our superstar athletes—not to mention a few high-profile Olympic contenders who shall remain nameless—could learn a thing or two from her. Her presence in the limelight can only be a good thing for sports and the world in general.

Although the Olympics sometimes get a bad rap for judging-related hijinks and controversial decisions on the part of the IOC, the spirit surrounding the games is truly noble and inspiring. This spirit can sometimes get lost in the shuffle and hype, but it always helps when there are athletes who truly embody the ideals that the Olympic games are founded on.

But of course, to get realistic, it’s important to point out that all the likability in the world can’t make up for lackluster performance. Sure, we want to like our athletes, but we also want them to win. Fortunately, Shawn Johnson can deliver on both counts.

Johnson stood out at the 2008 Games for her ability to perform at the top level in a range of events. In the end, while Johnson lost the gold in several events to her teammate Nastia Liukin, her three silvers and one gold amount to one of the top performances at the games. They were a testament to her strong work ethic and her flawless execution.

In a game that is too often defined by the tiny missteps that can turn a gold-medal contender into an also-ran, Johnson’s skill and attention to detail was not lost on millions of viewers, even those who were not necessarily gymnastics fans. No matter what sport we’re talking about, we all like to see top performers at the top of their game, and if Johnson can keep her streak going in London, we’ll all benefit from some great entertainment.

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