One of the lasting images we have from the 2008 Beijing Olympics is little 16-year-old Shawn Johnson, graceful as ever, scoring herself the gold medal in balance beam. Now that 16-year-old is 20 -- and retired. With the announcement a few days back that Johnson is retiring from gymnastics, taking her out of Olympic competition next month, the doors are open for a new face of Team USA.
Enter Jordyn Wieber.
Assuming she performs well at the Visa Championships this weekend, 16-year-old Wieber, whose specialty is the uneven bars, will be selected as one of five women to make the trip to London next month. The three-time American Cup champion was also the 2011 world all-around champ, and she already has a multitude of fan pages devoted to her, one of which is aptly named "Wieber Fever."
She hasn't been perfect in her wins, but she's been able to recover from her mistakes without getting fazed, perhaps an even more important attribute than pure perfection. The 2008 Olympic all-around gold medalist, Nastia Liukin, whom Wieber has called her role model, and who's fighting herself for a spot back on the team as a veteran, has called Wieber "so mentally tough and strong" and said her ability to put a mistake aside and go and finish two events and win the gold medal is admirable.
But even with all the praise and hype, Wieber stays humble. Last month, at the Procter and Gamble Olympic event with her mom, she consistently just said how happy and honored she was to be able to so close to reaching her dream, one she's worked at since she was 4. And her proud mom, Rita, who was by her daughter’s side, made it clear that even with all of her success and the growth of the spotlight, Jordyn's not getting any special treatment.
"I don't do her laundry for her," Rita says. "Now I kind of feel guilty because all of these other Olympic mothers say they do their child's laundry, but I don't! She has to do it."
Which probably doesn't bother Wieber, who has been good so far at handling herself and getting things done when she needs to get them done. So heads up, Olympic fans: Wieber Fever is picking up quickly -- and it's pretty easy to catch.
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