Olympic Gymnast Shawn Johnson Sadly Retires Just Four Days Short of U.S. ChampionshipS

Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson was forced to retire at the tender age of 20, putting an end to her bid to make the 2012 U.S. Olympic Gymnastics team after suffering one too many setbacks from a knee she injured during a 2010 skiing accident. She told the AP, in so many words, that, although she's a world-class competitor with the heart of a mountain lion, she didn't want to risk further injury by pushing her knee past its limit.

It just little by little gets worse and worse. My body is to the point where I need time to rest and retire so I can be healthy for the rest of my life. It's hard to wrap my mind around. Gymnastics has been my entire life, and now it's no more.

Johnson won four medals — three silvers and a gold — with the U.S. team during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, and returned home a budding celebrity athlete, winning Dancing with Stars in endearing fashion. Her ski accident, however, destroyed her knee, tearing her ACL, MCL, meniscus, and, gulp, hamstring all in one horrifying sweep. Over the past few months, her surgically repaired knee just couldn't cope with a rigorous Olympic training regimen, which means that now we all have to rearrange the gymnastics brackets we've been working on all winter long. If you want some more tangible proof of how good Johnson was, take a look at the video below from her winning performance as a 15-year-old phenom at the 2007 World Championships.

Gymnast Shawn Johnson ends comeback, retires [AP via Mercury News]