Thursday, June 19, 2008

Shawn Article...

I just found this really good article about Chow's flooding and what Shawn was thinking... take a minute to read it.

Flood doesn’t slow Johnson
PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Go home and rest, Shawn Johnson’s coaches insisted, there was nothing to worry about. Her gym would be safe from the fast-rising river, and nothing was going to disrupt her training in those last few days before the Olympic trials.

When Johnson woke up in the middle of the night, though, and found that her parents still weren’t home, she knew something was wrong. She drove to the gym, and found water from the Raccoon River lapping at the parking lot and volunteers stacking sandbags around the building.

By the next morning, there was a foot of water inside the gym.

“We definitely haven’t been hit as hard as others. In some cities, houses have completely gone under,” Johnson said Wednesday after her practice at the Olympic gymnastics trials. “(But) it’s hard to see our own gym go under water and to know a lot of equipment was damaged. We’re there every day of our lives, basically, so it’s kind of like seeing your home go under.”

There are all kinds of obstacles athletes encounter on their way to the Olympics: injuries, fatigue, doubt, financial hardship.

Mother Nature, though, isn’t usually on the list.

Johnson and coach Liang Chow’s relatively smooth road to the Beijing Olympics was in disarray late last week after floods ravaged Iowa. Yet for as much as it tested their resolve, it reminded them even more of their strength.

“It’s a real warm feeling, having these kind of people behind you,” Chow said. “It’s a bad flooding, but it was a great effort, a great community effort, a great (reminder) of people’s hearts. It was just tremendous.”

Johnson and teammate Nastia Liukin are considered the favorites for gold in Beijing. They were 1-2 at the national championships two weeks ago, and few are expecting anything different at this week’s trials, where the top two earn automatic bids to the Olympic team. The rest of the six-woman squad will be chosen July 20.

All Johnson had to do was stay her consistent self, and that trip to Beijing was hers.

Then the rain began to fall.

Johnson lives in West Des Moines, and neither her nor Chow’s home was threatened. But the gym, Chow’s Gymnastics and Dance Institute, is in an industrial park only a few blocks from the Raccoon River, and Chow kept one eye on the water and one on Johnson while she trained last Thursday afternoon.

“I dismissed all the classes early,” said Chow, who coaches Johnson with his wife, Li Zhuang. “It’s not life-threatening, it’s not close to that, it’s that water is coming to the parking lot. Li was teaching Shawn on beam and she was trying to squeeze every last minute. I said `Li, we have to finish up class RIGHT NOW.”’

As the water level climbed higher and higher, parents, city officials and people Chow didn’t even know began showing up at the gym. They filled sandbags and piled them outside the building in a makeshift barricade. They wrapped plastic around the outside walls. They hauled mats and balance beams and vaults and uneven bars off the floor, carrying them up to a balcony where the water wouldn’t touch them.

Johnson wanted to help, but Chow and Li shooed her away. They were leaving for the Olympic trials in four days, and she needed to rest.

“I wanted to help so bad,” Johnson said. “My coaches wanted me to be as safe as possible. They didn’t want me wasting energy. I understand that, but it’s really hard to stand back and watch when you’re normally helping and in the activity.”

When a city engineer surveyed the area and assured Chow the water wouldn’t rise beyond the parking lot, the coach breathed a sigh of relief. He left the gymnastics floor intact, moved some mats back down to the ground floor so Johnson would be able to train Friday morning and went home.

“I slept pretty good,” Chow said. “I got there early in the morning (Friday) and oh my gosh, the parking lot is full of water, up to my hips. … I was thinking, `There is no worse timing than this.’ The Olympic trials are coming up and I was thinking about Shawn’s training.”

Said Johnson, “When you think flooded you think, `OK, there’s water on the ground.’ But we went there and it’s waist-deep throughout the whole gym and the parking lot was even deeper. It was crazy. People actually brought out canoes.”

Training was out of the question. Not only was there a foot of water in the building, but the gymnastics floor was ruined.

“I was most worried about where I would train. I felt almost guilty thinking about that, just kind of selfish,” Johnson said. “Being that close to trials and seeing, I don’t know, almost my place slip away, it kind of scared me. … I helped get things cleaned up at first and then Chow just told me not to worry about it, don’t stress out, we’ll have a place and you’ll definitely be ready.”

While Johnson trained Friday and Saturday at Iowa State, about 30 miles north of her hometown, a small army of volunteers—parents, other gymnasts, Johnson’s high school classmates—began the massive clean up. They hauled equipment out to the parking lot to dry in the sun, hosed down mats and scrubbed floors.

They even rebuilt the gymnastics floor—though that led to one more bit of drama. Johnson’s father, Doug, a carpenter, tore his right biceps while he was rebuilding the floor, and will have surgery to repair it next week.

The volunteers worked so quickly Johnson was able to train in her own gym again Sunday.

“It really touches your heart, warms your heart,” Chow said. “You feel like this is my family, this small community of people is just wonderful. … They’re just trying to help us and to help Shawn achieve our goal. I feel like not only our community, but the state of Iowa is behind us.”

And Beijing in front of them.

Good, right? Gotta love her. :)

And with that said...

Who do you think it will be? Shawn or Nastia? Or could someone from behind pull out in front and surprise us all? It's highly unlikely, but ANYTHING can happen. And yours truly will be there to witness it! :D

Which means I probably will not be able to blog until Monday when I get back... I'm leaving in about an hour, so no posts today either. So until Monday...

Go Shawn!