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Shawn Johnson still looking toward 2012 Olympics

September 22, 2011 |  1:50 pm

Photo: Shawn Johnson. Credit: Ronald Martinez / Getty Images.

USA Gymnastics women’s coordinator Martha Karolyi said Thursday she expects the three 2008 Olympians who didn’t make the 2011 team that will represent the U.S. at the world championships next month in Tokyo to shine at their assignment to the Pan-Am Games instead. She also is expecting good things from the relatively inexperienced group that will go to Tokyo and try to earn the U.S. team a spot at the 2012 Olympics.

The top eight teams in Tokyo will earn places for the London Games; the U.S. will be led by another 2008 Olympian, Alicia Sacramone.

Shawn Johnson, Chellsie Memmel and Bridget Sloan, also members of the 2008 team who are in various stages of returning from retirements, are still strong candidates for London, Karolyi said, even though they were named to the Pan-Am team on Wednesday night.

“Bridget, with another month to reach her potential, can win Pan-Ams,” Karolyi said. “Memmel had to stop in the middle of her bar routine at nationals because of shoulder problems -- and those problems kept her from her potential and [led to] her not being selected. She’s had to deal with this injury.

“Shawn, nice effort but same thing. She wasn’t in maximum shape on her preparation. She’s had to deal with a knee injury and couldn’t train 100 percent all these months leading up. For next year I think she’ll be a fantastic competitor for the Olympic team.”

Johnson, who won a gold medal on the balance beam in Beijing and silver medals in all-around, floor exercise and team competition,  was designated the “non-traveling” alternate for the world team, and if there is an injury before the team leaves for Tokyo, Johnson might still compete.

“It’s not a disappointment at all,” she said. “I’ve made a lot of progress in the last year. I’m here for the team and right now I’m not the best pick for the team. I think there’s always room for improvement. I’ll go home, work hard, put in the hours.”

Johnson said she isn’t certain she will do all four events at the Pan-Am Games. She may skip the floor exercise, which is most difficult on her knee.

Karolyi said that putting together the world team was made more difficult by recent injuries to former U.S. all-around champion Rebecca Bross, who dislocated her knee at nationals in August, and Mackenzie Caquatto, who severely sprained an ankle at the final selection camp in Texas this week.

Joining Sacramone on the world team are 15-year-old McKayla Maroney from Laguna Niguel, who finished second in the all-around at the 2011 nationals; former UCLA standout and uneven bars specialist Anna Li; 2011 U.S. all-around champion Jordyn Wieber; Alexandra Raisman, who was part of the 2010 U.S. world silver medalist team; and newcomers Gabrielle Douglas, who trains with Johnson in Iowa, and Sabrina Vega of Carmel, N.Y.

-- Diane Pucin

Photo: Shawn Johnson. Credit: Ronald Martinez / Getty Images.

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