By Sam Kilgore
Photo by John Cheng

Walking down the hill from the gravel lot where she parked, the girl wearing the Marvin the Martian t-shirt, a hoodie and jeans listening to her iPod looks like everyone else, just another high school student in Pittsboro, Ind.

Bridget Sloan, however, is anything but. She is the reigning World Champion and a 2008 Olympic team silver medalist - the girl who went four-for-four at the 2008 Olympic Games when teammate Samantha Peszek went down with an injury.

But according to her, none of that matters at Tri-West High School.

"At school, I am just another kid," Sloan said. "No one treats me special or acts like I'm a celebrity. I still have to go to class and keep up on my homework like everyone else."

Sloan thinks keeping her different roles separate gives her balance.

"I'm an athlete when I'm at the gym and a student when I'm at school," said Sloan. "I like to keep my gym life and my school life separate."

In 2008, at barely 16 years of age, Sloan was the youngest member on the U.S. Olympic women's gymnastics team in Beijing, one of the six-member team that included the likes of Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson. Most people really didn't know a lot about her.

Today, the 17-year-old junior is the U.S and World all-around champion who people are starting to recognize.

"When I was shopping over Thanksgiving, people would just walk up to me and hug me saying, 'Congratulations,'" said Sloan. Then these little girls were following me around, just huddled together a few feet away giggling. One of them came up to me and said, 'You're Bridget Sloan aren't you?'

"That was when I was like, 'Wow, I am the role model now.'"

Following her gold-medal performance at the 2009 World Championships, Sloan took some time off from training to rest and recover. She spent it hanging out with family and friends, making some public appearances, doing interviews, and enjoying her favorite pastimes - shopping and music.

But she's back in the gym, training with her long-time coach Marvin Sharp, and while she turned down an invitation to compete in this year's Tyson American Cup, she's looking forward to her next competition.

"After winning Worlds at the O2 Arena, where gymnastics will at the 2012 Olympics, I was like, 'Wow, I want to come back,'" Sloan said. "That's my goal, to prove to everyone that I'm not done, and I guess I'll start by trying to defend my title at Visa Championships."

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