Gold medal gymnast Shawn Johnson of West Des Moines delayed her return to Iowa Monday so she could stop in New York City to appear on the Late Show with David Letterman on C.B.S. The 16-year-old Johnson told Letterman that 4,000 people were waiting for her at the airport before her plans changed to do the his show, "and now they’re all going home." She also talked about how she got started in gymnastics.
Johnson says she started when she was three after she started walking at nine months and scared her parents one day when she showed up in their room. Johnson says she’s had a pretty normal childhood as friends didn’t realize until recently how good she was.
"Most of my friends and stuff always though I was like the recreational kid that did cartwheels and stuff," Johnson says. She says once she came back from the world championships last year and they had seen her on t-v, her friends said, "You weren’t joking" about being a gymnast.
Johnson won three silver medals in Beijing in addition to one gold medal, which she brought along to show Letterman and the TV viewers. Letterman showed Johnson a picture of her bronze statue that’s in the Iowa Hall of Pride, and then surprised her with a picture from the Iowa State Fair.
"I haven’t seen that yet," Johnson said, "oh my God, that’s me in butter," she said refiring to her likeness carved in butter at the fair. Letterman later joked that he had seen the Chinese gymnasts using pacifiers when they thought they weren’t on camera. He asked Johnson about the age controversy surrounding the Chinese.
Johnson says she doesn’t know what to think when asked if she thought the Chinese girls were not the required age of sixteen. Johnson said she’s good friends with the Chinese girls and said,"It’s kind of sad to think they might have broke the rules if they’re not of age, but it’s something they can’t control." A rally is planned for Johnson this evening at six o’clock in downtown Des Moines at the Iowa Events Center.