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Originally published Tuesday, May 4, 2010 at 12:53 PM

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Johnson says she's training for 2012 Olympics

London's call was too much for Shawn Johnson to resist.

The Associated Press

DES MOINES —

London's call was too much for Shawn Johnson to resist.

The gold medal gymnast said Tuesday she is training in hopes of making the 2012 Olympics in London. Johnson is still recovering from Feb. 16 surgery to repair a torn ACL in her left knee, and is about two months from being at full strength.

"It's just exciting, but I've got a ways to go," Johnson told reporters from the Des Moines Register and WHO-TV after announcing her plans to a group of elementary school students.

"This is just a start. And nothing is a sure thing, but I'm going to give it as big and best an effort as I can."

While the timing of Johnson's announcement came as a surprise, the news itself was not.

Johnson, who turned 18 in January, needed time away from gymnastics after winning the 2007 world title and four medals at the Beijing Olympics - a gold on balance beam and silvers in the all-around, team competition and floor exercise. She won "Dancing With the Stars" and traveled the country for appearances and commercial opportunities.

She said repeatedly that she hadn't ruled out a comeback, and would drop in at her old gym on occasion. After carrying the Olympic torch before the Vancouver Games, Johnson admitted she was envious of the athletes who were getting ready to compete.

"Every time she comes in, it seems like her desire is getting stronger and stronger," longtime coach Liang Chow said. "Yesterday afternoon, she just didn't want to leave me alone. She wanted to do more and more, and was asking directions."

Johnson has been out of training since Beijing, so the first task is to get her back into gymnastics shape. She's done some work on the equipment, but will have to take it slow because of her knee, which she hurt during a January ski trip.

Once Johnson is back in shape, Chow said they'll start putting routines together.

"It's hard for me to tell you anything on the timing," he said. "I'm hoping she can get back to the competition floor by next year. For this year, mainly it will be the preparation stage."

While her layoff was a long one, Johnson still has more than two years before the London Games. Dominique Dawes made her third Olympic team in 2000 despite taking 3 1/2 years off after winning a gold medal in Atlanta.

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Johnson and Olympic champion Nastia Liukin - who also hasn't ruled out a return - were by far the world's best gymnasts when they stepped away after Beijing. It's too early to say whether Johnson can return to that level, but Chow said they're eager to find out.

"It seems like a family reunion for me," said Chow, who has coached Johnson since she was 5. "We worked hard together on a daily basis for 2008, and now it's going to be even harder - for her and for me. Not only is she getting older, but also she has her knee injury as well.

"I'm excited," he added. "But I understand it won't be an easy road."

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