Person of the Week: Shawn Johnson

This 15-year-old is expected to become an Olympic star.

Sept. 14, 2007 — -- World Champions come in all sizes. This one is 4 feet 8 and weighs 88 pounds. She is 15 years old and started 10th grade this week in West Des Moines, Iowa.

Shawn Johnson is just a typical teenager who loves being a ball girl for her high school football team as much as she loves blowing away international audiences.

She won three gold medals at the World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, last weekend and was the all-around champion at the event.

"It feels amazing to be the world champion. It feels unreal, yet it's starting to sink in. It's overwhelming," Johnson said.

This 15-year-old's success comes as no surprise to those who know her well.

"She never bothered to crawl," her mother, Teri Johnson, said. "She started walking when she was 9 months old and never slowed down."

Her parents put her in gymnastics just to channel all her energy, but it took a talented Chinese coach to see the raw talent.

In a coincidence that now seems fated, Liang Qiao, a top gymnast for China, found himself at the University of Iowa on an English scholarship. Johnson showed up at his gymnastics studio one day when she was 6.

Qiao saw Johnson's potential early on and has nurtured it to the top of the field. If they return together to Beijing, life and their joint Olympic dreams will have come full circle.

"I think it'd be so cool not only me but for him, just because he was known by everybody … for him to come back with an athlete who's now going for one of the biggest titles there is. I think it'd be a really proud moment for both of us," Johnson said.

In addition to her growing collection of medals, Johnson's devotion to her sport has brought her balance in life.

"[Gymnastics] definitely transfers over to school and to home. I know almost all of us are straight-A students, and I don't think that's coincidence," she said. "Gymnastics and any sport teaches you good life lessons."

And one of the best lessons Johnson has learned?

"For anybody trying to become an [athlete] or just even having fun with a sport … you can't really work hard if you don't have fun," she said. "Make sure you are doing what your heart wants you to."