The 16-year-old easily bested rival Nastia Liukin last night, the closing night of the 2008 U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials, to win the all-around title.
Then, to no one's surprise, those two were named to the U.S. Olympic team.
The remainder of that squad, which figures to be the gold-medal favorite in August, will be selected in July following a camp at Karolyi's Texas training facility. Twelve women, including Johnson and Liukin, were invited there last night.
"If it would be up to me, I would like to name nobody [last night]," Karolyi said. "Because waiting shows me which of the girls are competing the best just before the Games."
Johnson, whose West Des Moines gym took on nine feet of water, forcing her to train at Iowa State University in the days before she came to Philadelphia, has been the best for a while.
She trailed Liukin by a narrow margin after two events. But the reigning national champion moved ahead with a 16.200 on balance beam, while Liukin, a stylish 18-year-old from Parker, Texas, totaled a subpar 15.450 on her floor exercise.
"I definitely was looking for more," Liukin said. "But with the end results, I couldn't be happier."
Johnson padded her advantage and clinched the title with the stirring floor routine that earned her a 16.200 score. Her 127.650 total was nearly two points better than Liukin's 125.850.
"I gave it my all," Johnson said. "I finally got that ticket to Beijing. It feels amazing to finally have a dream be a reality."
She also won the beam competition with another 16.200. Chellsie Memmel, who capped a comeback from shoulder surgery by finishing third (124.800), was best on the uneven bars (16.400). Alicia Sacramone, at 20 the Americans' grande dame, won the vault (16.000).
Now the top three finishers, plus Sacramone, Jana Bieger, Chelsea Davis, Ivana Hong, Mattie Larson, Corrie Lothrop, Samantha Peszek, Bridget Sloan and Shayla Worley, will travel to the Olympic selection camp. There, Karolyi and husband Bela will pick the remaining four members of the team plus three alternates.
Memmel was so impressive that some believed the Karolyis might also name her to the team last night, even though USA Gymnastics guidelines mandate that only two top all-around finishers had to be named.
"Chellsie Memmel showed me that she is all the way back," said Martha Karolyi. "She's back to being the gymnast who won a world championship all-around."
When they were officially named at the end of competition, Johnson and Liukin hugged, and the winner whispered in her new Olympic teammate's ear.
"She just said, 'Can you believe it?' " Liukin said. " 'Can you believe it's finally here? We're Olympians.' "