Shawn Johnson tiptoes around the topic.
Ask the Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast if she belongs on the Mount Rushmore of Iowa athletes, and the dynamo from West Des Moines becomes a diplomat.
"I don't know," Johnson said with a laugh. "I wouldn't put my name among any of the greats, just because it does still feel like a pinch-me moment."
That moment — a victory on the balance beam at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing — helped land Johnson in the Des Moines Sunday Register's Iowa Sports Hall of Fame.
She becomes the 220th inductee.
Des Moines Sunday Register Iowa Sports Hall Of Fame: Previous selections
Some, however, put her in a more exclusive club, one that includes icons such as Nile Kinnick, Bob Feller, Dan Gable and Kurt Warner.
"It's a huge honor," Johnson said. "I think I can be proud to say I kind of helped put Iowa out there on the map, which is really exciting for me. I grew up telling everybody I'm from Iowa and they would always say, 'Where's that? What's in Iowa?'
"And I always thought it was the greatest place in the world."
The 4-foot-9 phenom reached the pinnacle of international gymnastics, winning an all-around title at 2007 World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, and collecting a total of four Olympic medals.
Appearing on "Dancing With the Stars" helped make Johnson one of the most recognizable athletes/celebrities of her generation.
And why not?
Her smile was straight out of central casting. She was America's sweetheart. And only those closest to Johnson knew about the sacrifices and sweat.
Before stepping onto a podium, Johnson endured years of drudgery.
"I don't mean it in a real negative way, but honestly it was horrible," said Teri Johnson, Shawn's mother. "It was get her up, knowing she was tired and didn't have enough sleep. Get her to school, pick her up just in time to get something in her belly and drop her off at gym.
"The only way to see her was just to sit and watch (Shawn train) for four hours."
All that sitting left plenty of time for second thoughts.
"She's had tremendous success and it's been so good for her," Teri said of Shawn. "I would never wish that away from her, but I honestly would not do it again.
"I think the people watching, really, all they see is the glory, which I understand ... but I think it's a really hard job as a parent."
It's also difficult for outsiders, especially those who only pay attention to gymnastics once every four years, to appreciate Johnson's unique abilities.
Her blend of power, precision and an infectious personality ushered in a new era for the sport.
"I do think people appreciated her performance," coach Liang Chow said. "It's not like every year we have (someone of) Shawn's quality in gymnastics.
"I think she has her own style that's really attracting to people."
Johnson remains popular, even though there is occasionally confusion as to the source of her fame.
"Unfortunately, people kind of see me as a dancer more than a gymnast," Johnson said. "Which is crazy to me, because I worked my entire life for the honor of being an Olympian. But I was on people's TV more for being a dancer than anything."
"Very surreal, but at least it's a good conversation starter to tell people the actual story."
It's a story that began when Johnson was 3 years old and enrolled in a tiny tots tumbling class.
"I remember falling in love with the trampoline," Johnson said. "I thought that was the greatest thing I had ever experienced in my entire life.
"I felt like I was Superman."
Johnson reached the rarest of heights, securing a place among Iowa's greatest athletic luminaries.
SHAWN JOHNSON UP CLOSE
Born: January 19, 1992 in Des Moines
Engagement: Earlier this summer, Johnson became engaged to football player Andrew East. Her mother, Teri, is thrilled. "I'm really enjoying this part," Teri said. "This is wonderful. They're both wonderful people. I'm really happy for both of them and I can't wait for grandkids. I don't know that she's in a big hurry for that, but I'll wait."
On winning gold: Even seven years later, Johnson describes winning an Olympic gold medal as a surreal experience. "After I had finished, I was with my parents and getting ready to fly home. … Just the idea that it was over and I had experienced everything that I could possibly have dreamed of. I just couldn't believe that I had done it. It felt like a dream." When a 13-year-old Johnson won her first gold medal at the national level, she gave it to coach Liang Chow's wife, Li. "That really touches your heart," Chow said. "She appreciates what people have done for her. That means a lot. That was incredible, especially for a little kid."