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INTERVIEW: DWTS’ Shawn Johnson Talks Boys and Ballroom

Mar. 18 2009, Published 10:18 a.m. ET

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Shawn Johnson went from the balance beam to the ballroom when she joined this year’s cast of Dancing With The Stars. The 17-year-old gymnast signed on as the show’s youngest-ever competitor after racking up the medals at last year’s Beijing Olympics. asked the teen, who dodged elimination on last night’s results show, about who the cast heartthrob is, shimmying her hips, those sexy costumes, and dating.

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While you might expect a graceful, strong gymnast to have an advantage over the other celebs, Johnson says that’s not the case. “I think it’s the opposite,” she says, “I’ve struggled so much in practice with Mark telling me: ‘You need to let go of the gymnastics!’ I’m used to powerful and rigid, stick-the-landing stuff.”  (That’s not to say Shawn doesn’t have moves—her scores with partner Mark Ballas this week placed her in the top three.)

Johnson, who isn’t retiring from gymnastics yet, admits the record number of injuries on this season’s DWTS makes her a little nervous. “You cross your fingers that it doesn’t happen to you. But it’s sad. People work so hard and put in so many hours,” she said. ”I’m just thinking about staying safe.” So when will we see her take to the uneven bars again? Johnson says time will tell. “I did take a break from gymnastics to do this, of course, and it’s not a decision I can make when I’m not in the gym.”

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Now Shawn’s traded her hours of gym time for hours in the dance studio. When she does get a rare minute to herself, she heads to her favorite spot in Los Angeles. “I love The Grove,” she says. “I tend to hang out there a lot.”

With one person now out of the running (Belinda Carlisle), who does Johnson think will be her biggest competition? “It’s still pretty early in the game. But of course Gilles and Melissa are amazing and kicking butt.” And who is the biggest heartthrob of this season’s show? “That’s a tough one,” she says. “You know, Ty Murray is just the sweetheart of everybody and Maks Chmerkovskiy thinks he’s, like, the stud.”

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Despite the fact that Johnson’s no stranger to being on TV, she says performing on DWTS still makes her feel nervous. “You get used to that whole gymnastics scene…with this, they throw you into it. It’s hard to have people there where you can actually see their facial expressions.” But she’s much braver about those sometimes-skimpy dance costumes. “I mean, I love it. I’m a girl and what girl wouldn’t love it? I think the leotard pretty much reveals more than a dress would, no matter how many holes are cut out of it.”

As for her personal life? “I haven’t really noticed any extra male adoration yet. But I haven’t really had time to have any.” Any dates in Los Angeles yet? “No dates,” she laughs.

Come on boys, stop slacking and line up for this true winner in every sense of the word.



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