A few days ago, a foreign writer came into our media-center office and asked us which American athlete was poised to become America's sweetheart this month. The implication was that this sweetheart would be of the female persuasion. We all thought about it, and then all of us said Shawn Johnson first.
Why is Shawn Johnson in line to become America's athletic sweetheart? Why do Americans suddenly get all into the Alicia Sacramones of the world, even while better known female athletes like Candace Parker and Serena Williams are competing in the same Games? What is it about that particular sport? I asked some members of the U.S. women's gymnastics team, plus former coach and NBC commentator Bela Karolyi, to help answer this question.