This year's Great Blond Hope is Scott Johnson, an accomplished gymnast and fast-food chef who will try to keep Seoul from becoming another Calgary.

Isn't that just what America needs, another 5-foot-3 guy who'd look good on a Wheaties box and who'd eat them with whole milk, too? Countdown to Seoul has passed the seven-month stage, and Johnson is a lot like 1984 blonds Bart Conner and Peter Vidmar in that he's got the tantalizing look to carry away an entire public sector, not to mention a couple Olympic gold medals.

This weekend, the road to Seoul passes through George Mason University's Patriot Center, and Johnson also appears to be the favorite to carry away first place at the annual McDonald's American Cup. At the 1987 Pan Am games, he won four gold medals and became the first to win medals in every event, and now he is here, not only representing his country, but his employer.

Thirty hours a week, Johnson is a management trainee at a McDonalds' restaurant in Lincoln, Neb., where he earns enough money to finance his Olympic training. He says supervising the hectic drive-thru isn't a bad way to stay in shape, either, though he says fixing the hamburgers is "a piece of cake."

Four years ago, the U.S. men's gymnastics team won the overall gold medal going away. Johnson was there as the team's "leadoff man," which meant he would generally not finish with the highest scores. Judges tend to start conservative with their scoring, which might be why Johnson didn't capture an individual medal. Let's say a judge gave Johnson a 9.90 on the parallel bars, and the next competitor came out and did an even better routine. The judge would give that person an even higher score, and by the time the elite guys like Conner came around to compete, they'd be certain to get 10s. So, the idea is to start the scores low.

"In other words, I was the sacrificial lamb," Johnson says. In Seoul, though, he is expected to bat cleanup, not leadoff.

He's the only 1984 team member still competing, and that at the ripe old age of 26, soon to be 27. The other top competitors (Kevin Davis, Dan Hayden and Charles Lakes) are 23 or younger, so it's safe to say Johnson is the veteran here.

Immediately after the 1984 Games, he went on tour with Conner and Vidmar and got a little fat and happy, signing autographs for the first time in his life and losing some of what he called "my competitive edge." Then came Lori, a girlfriend who eventually became his wife, and he fell to 15th place at a 1985 event in Indianapolis.

Really, though, Johnson said the 15th place finish helped him regain his "Eye of the Tiger," to quote Rocky III. Ever since, the question hasn't been "Do I still want it?" but "Do I have enough money?"

Starved for some cash flow, Johnson tried working for J.C. Penny's and did hundreds of clinics around the nation to raise funds. To retain his amateur status, all money went into a trust fund, which he could draw upon whenever he needed new socks or anything else dealing with gymnastics.

Johnson was a little downtrodden at last year's McDonald's American Cup because his trust fund was running on empty. He sat down and had a chat with a McDonald's representative, who offered to help him get going. Soon, he was learning how to make burgers and fries, and when the Olympics are over, he'll be managing his own store.

"Does that mean you can give me free food?" Lakes, fellow gymnast, asked.

"No," Johnson said. "That's against our policy. I'm an honest manager."

He's about as all-American as you're going to get, and he's humble, too. A native of Cincinnati and a University of Nebraska graduate, he refuses to say whether he has a spot locked up on the Olympic team, and he refuses to predict any gold medals for the 1988 team.

"Listen," Johnson said, "What we did in 1984 was a one-time thing, a miracle situation. We were perfect that weekend, and being on the home court {in Los Angeles} helped."

Nevertheless, he says the time to be thinking 1988 gold is now, considering this weekend's international competition includes 20 countries, even the Soviet Union. With a victory, he would become the favorite for Seoul. Then, McDonald's might even do a pre-Olympic TV commercial with him, and there'd be more money for that ever-important trust fund.