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Nastia Liukin Bio: In Her Own Words


US Olympic Gold Medalist Nastia Liukin Reveals… by uSports

Nastia Liukin (October 30, 1989) is a Russian-American retired gymnast. She has won championships at the Olympic games, World Artistic Gymnastics Championships, and U.S. Gymnastics National Championships. Liukin is tied with Shannon Miller for the most medals by an American gymnast in a single non-boycotted Olympic games with her five at the 2008 Beijing games, including a gold in the all-around competition. After being a cornerstone of the U.S. senior team in the late 2000’s, Liukin attempted to make the 2012 London Olympic team, but fell short in qualifying. She retired from gymnastics in 2012 and has gone on to attend New York University as well as become a gymnastic analyst for NBC Sports and a contestant on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars.

Nastia Liukin Early Life

Nastia Liukin was born Anastasia Valeryevna Liukin on October 30, 1989 in Moscow, Russia, then at the time under the Soviet Union. She’s the only child of 1988 Olympic gold medalist gymnast Valeri Liukin and 1987 world champion gymnast Anna Kotchneva. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Liukin and her family moved to the United States when she was 2. After living near New Orleans, the family moved to Texas, where Valeri opened a gymnastics academy in Plano with fellow Soviet gymnastics champion Evgeny Marchenko in 1994.

In 2007, Liukin graduated from Spring Creek Academy in Plano, Tex. She enrolled at Southern Methodist University in Dallas in 2008, but left the college to focus on her gymnastics career.

Nastia Liukin Gymnastics Career

Being in a family full of gymnasts made gymnastics an easy choice for Nastia Liukin. She began to take up the sport at the age of 3 when she had to go with her parents to the practices they coached, as they were unable to afford a babysitter for her. Liukin fell in love with gymnastics and decided she would follow in her parents’ footsteps and start performing in competitions.

In an exclusive interview with uSports sister site uInterview, Liukin told us about the connection between the sport and her parents made her drive to be just like them. “I think I was a gymnast before I was even born. I just always had a passion and love for the sport of gymnastics,” she said. “I think that by them achieving what they did, I remember as soon as I knew what the words Olympic games meant I wanted to go there. Whatever that meant, I wanted to go to the Olympics and I wanted to follow in their footsteps and achieve what they did. It was really great to have somebody that I looked up to as my parents and to see their Olympic and world medals and say that I wanted one of my own.”

Liukin’s junior career saw her competing in the 2002 National Championships. Although she was unable to finish the uneven bar routines after suffering a fall, she finished the event in 15th, which landed her a spot on the U.S. National Team. She also landed a spot on the 2002 Junior Pan American Championships team, where she helped contribute to the United States’ team gold medal as well as winning silver in the uneven bars, balance beam, and all-around events.

Although Liukin was too young to compete for the United States at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, she emerged as one of the nation’s top gymnasts in 2003 and 2004. She won the junior division of the U.S. National Championships in 2003 with gold medals in three of the four events she competed in. She was also a part of the gold medal winning U.S. team at the 2003 Pan Am Games, where she also won gold in the balance beam and a silver in the all-around. Liukin won the all-around at the 2004 Pacific Alliance Championships and once again dominated the junior division at the U.S. National Championships for her second straight championship. U.S. Gymnastics leaders say had Liukin been 15 years old, the threshold for the senior division, she would’ve made the American team for the Olympics.

Liukin began her senior career in 2005 with similar success as her junior career. She won her first senior U.S. National Championship in 2005 with gold medals in the balance beam and uneven bars. She also had success at the international level in her first senior year, grabbing gold at the 2005 World Gymnastics Championships in Melbourne, Australia in the balance beam and uneven bars and silver in the all-around and floor exercise. She also won the 2005 U.S. Classic all-around competition.

Liukin continued the momentum in 2006 with a victory in the all-around at the American Cup.  She then went on to win two individual gold medals, an individual silver medal, and a team gold medal at the 2006 Pacific Alliance Championships. At that year’s U.S. Classic, she recovered from two falls to settle for a solid 4th place finish in the all-around event. Liukin was once again a senior national champion after defending her all-around, beam, and bar titles at the U.S. National Championships and was named to the U.S. team for the World Championships once again. She suffered an ankle injury in training and was only able to compete in the uneven bars and team events. Even still, Liukin left Denmark with two silver medals with gutsy performances at the 2006 event.

Although Liukin’s ankle injury would keep her out for much of the 2007 season, she still competed in gymnastics’ biggest competitions. She returned in time for the 2007 Pan American Games in Brazil, where she contributed to the United States’ gold medal in the team competition and placed second in the bars and beam. She also went back to the U.S. National Championships, where she won the bars once more but had to settle for 2nd in the beam and 3rd overall in the all-around, finishing behind the new national champion in Shawn Johnson. Liukin was once again named to the U.S. Team for the World Championships, where she helped the U.S. win gold in the team event, added another gold in the balance beam competition, and finished with a silver in uneven bars. Liukin finished a disappointing 5th in the all-around, however, after falling off the balance beam during her routine.

Liukin’s 2008 season started off with a victory at the American Cup and 1st place finishes in the team, all-around, and balance beam competitions, as well as second in uneven bars. at the Pacific Rim Championships. At the U.S. National Championships, Liukin finished in 2nd behind Shawn Johnson in the all-around competition and won both the balance beam and uneven bars events. Liukin moved onto the U.S. Olympic Trials in Philadelphia, where she easily qualified for the U.S. 2008 Beijing team with a second place finish in the event.

The 2008 Olympic Games were nothing short of spectacular for Nastia Liukin. She started off the competition by qualifying for the finals of four events as well as the team competition. She took part in three events of the team competition, helping to propel the United States to a silver medal, just 2.375 points behind the heavily favored Chinese team. Liukin followed that up by winning the gold in gymnastics’ individual crown jewel event, the all-around, silvers in uneven bars and the balance beam, and a surprising bronze in the floor exercise. Liukin became just the third American woman to win the Olympic all-around, with Mary Lou Retton and Carly Patterson coming before her. Her five medals also tied Retton and Shannon Miller for the most medals won by an American gymnast in a single Olympic games. Liukin left Bejing and the 2008 calendar year as the USOC Co-Sportswoman of the Year with swimmer Natalie Coughlin, the Women’s Sports Foundation Individual Sportswoman of the year, and USAG Sportswoman of the Year. She also ranked 3rd in the Associated Press’ voting for the 2008 Female Athlete of the Year award.

After the Olympics, Liukin decided to continue to compete in gymnastics, which is usually an unlikely occurrence for gymnasts. She toned down her schedule and only competed in the balance beam competition at the U.S. Championships. She finished fourth in the event and was on her way to another World Championship appearance, but she decided she was unhappy with her recent form and withdrew from consideration for the event.

After taking time off, Liukin came back to gymnastics in 2011 by announcing her intentions to compete for a spot on the 2012 U.S. Olympic team. Liukin told uInterview about the tough road she faced on her comeback after years of not training. “It’s not been easy — not that I thought it would be easy, but I’m not really sure what I thought,” she admitted. “It’s been hard, but at the same time it’s very rewarding to know that I’ve been able to be where I am at today because of hard work. Hard work never disappears, and that’s something we’ve been taught from a very early age, if you work hard every single day and set your mind to it and if you believe it, anything is possible. It’s definitely been hard, but I think it’s been worth it — worth every bit of pain and every single thing that I’ve gone through these past six months has been totally worth it.”

She was granted a waiver by USA Gymnastics to compete at the 2012 Visa National Championships when she met the criteria score in the balance beam event at the U.S. Secret Classic. She went on to finish 6th in the beams and 20th in the bars, but was still chosen to compete for a spot on the Olympic team at the Olympic Trials.

Liukin’s gymnastics career came to an end in the Olympic Trials after failing to qualify for the U.S. team. She suffered a fall in the uneven bars event and had to receive assistance from her father Valeri in order to finish up her routine. She finished the event in the beam event to a standing ovation by an appreciative crowd. She retired after the event, but still made the trip to London as the athlete representative of the International Gymnastics Federation.

Nastia Liukin Post-Gymnastics Life

Since her first step back from gymnastics in 2010, Nastia Liukin has hosted the Nastia Liukin Cup for junior and senior level 10 gymnasts prior to the AT&T American Cup. The event helps give gymnasts not yet at the top level the opportunity to compete in an arena setting and on a raised podium surface. Several future American gymnastics stars have competed in the competition, including 2012 Olympic champion Gabby Douglas, Ashton Locklear, Mykayla and Kayla Williams.

Liukin’s 2008 Olympic run made her go through the rounds of many talk shows, as well as landing her appearances on shows such as Gossip Girl and Make It or Break It. She also appeared in the 2008 ABC women’s cancers special Frosted Pink With a Twist.

Since her retirement, Liukin has contributed to NBC Sports’ coverage of the Olympic Games. After failing to qualify in 2012, she joined NBC in London to serve as an analyst during the gymnastics events. Two years later, she returned to NBC as a special correspondent during their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Liukin also does professional speaking on her experiences in the Olympics and subjects on women in sports.

In early 2013, Liukin returned to school by enrolling at New York University. She is currently studying sports management and psychology.

In 2015, Liukin was added to the roster of celebrity contestants in the 20th season of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. She competed with a five-time winner on the show, professional dancer Derek Hough. Although Liukin and Hough were consistently one of the best couples on the show throughout the season, the two were eliminated in the semifinal round despite receiving high marks from the judges.

On Memorial Day weekend of 2015, Liukin will serve as the grand marshal for the Indianapolis 500.

Liukin has been a part of multiple advertising campaigns with her sponsors. Among them are appearances for Visa, AT&T, CoverGirl, Adidas, and Subway. She has also appeared on the box of Wheaties cereal after the 2008 Olympics. Liukin has also expressed interest in fashion, releasing a clothing line for JC Penney in 2010.

Liukin is also been a known contributor towards aid after natural disasters. In 2008 she helped raise funds for victims of Hurricane Ike in her native Texas and did the same in 2012 after Hurricane Sandy.

Written by Ryan McDonnell
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