Nastia Liukin

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Nastia Liukin
— Gymnast —
Liukin backstage at The Heart Truth's Red Dress Collection Fashion Show during New York Fashion Week. February 13, 2009 at Bryant Park.
Liukin in 2009
Personal information
Full name Anastasia Valeryevna Liukin
Nickname(s) Nastia
Country represented  United States
Born (1989-10-30) October 30, 1989 (age 24)
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
(now Moscow, Russian Federation)
Hometown Parker, Texas, United States
Height 5 ft 3 in (1.60 m)[1]
Weight 115 lb (52 kg)[2]
Discipline Women's artistic gymnastics
Level Senior International Elite
Years on national team 2002–2009, 2011–2013[3]
Gym World Olympic Gymnastics Academy
Head coach(es) Valeri Liukin
Assistant coach(es) Natalya Marakova
Former coach(es) Anna Liukin
Joe Drake
Choreographer Natalya Marakova
Music "Variations on Dark Eyes"
by Lara St. John
Eponymous skills Liukin, Beam, front ariel to arabesque
Retired 2012

Anastasia Valeryevna "Nastia" Liukin (Russian: Анастасия "Настя" Валерьевна Люкина; born October 30, 1989) is a retired Russian-American artistic gymnast. She is the 2008 Olympic individual all-around Champion, the 2005 and 2007 World Champion on the balance beam, and the 2005 World Champion on the uneven bars. She is also a four-time all-around U.S. National Champion, winning twice as a junior and twice as a senior. With nine World Championships medals, seven of them individual, Liukin is tied with Shannon Miller for the second-highest tally of World Championship medals (among US gymnasts);[4] Liukin also tied Miller's record as the American gymnast having won the most medals in a single non-boycotted Olympic Games.[5]

Liukin was a key member of the U.S. senior team. Liukin represented the United States at three World Championships and one Olympic Games. In October 2011, Liukin announced that she was returning to gymnastics with the hopes of making a second Olympic team.[6] Liukin did not make the 2012 Olympic team, after several falls at the Olympic Trials and other pre-Olympic events, and retired from the sport in 2012.

Personal life[edit]

Liukin was born on October 30, 1989, in Moscow, Russia SFSR, Soviet Union. She is the only child of two former Soviet champion gymnasts: 1988 Summer Olympics gold medalist Valeri Liukin and 1987 World Clubs Champion in rhythmic gymnastics Anna Kotchneva.[7][8] Liukin and her family are members of the Russian Orthodox church.[9] Her nickname Nastia is a Russian diminutive for Anastasia. The family moved to the United States when Nastia Liukin was two and a half years old, after the breakup of the Soviet Union,[10] and settled first in New Orleans before moving to Texas. In 1994, Valeri Liukin teamed with another former Soviet champion athlete, Evgeny Marchenko, to open the World Olympic Gymnastics Academy (WOGA) in Plano.[7]

Liukin is fluent in English and Russian.[7][11] She graduated from Spring Creek Academy, located in Plano, Texas, in the spring of 2007. She had enrolled as a freshman international business major at Southern Methodist University in January 2008, but took a leave from classes to concentrate on preparations for the 2008 Olympic Games. She returned to campus in Spring 2009, but her travel schedule and professional commitments caused her to withdraw before the end of the semester. She stated that she hoped to continue her studies at New York University in the future.[12][13] Nastia's signature color is pink, hence her pink leotard worn during the 2008 Beijing Olympics All-Around competition.[14][15]

Liukin currently updates a blog on her official website and regularly posts on Twitter as @NastiaLiukin. She has a line of GK Gymnastics Leotards and grips and a line of pink gymnastics equipment from AAI. It is rumored that Nastia Liukin was in a relationship with American figure skater Evan Lysacek. People Magazine claimed to confirm their relationship in a February 2010 article,[16] but Lysacek denied the rumors in an interview with Entertainment Tonight, stating that the two are just "very close friends."[17] In January 2013, Liukin began college at New York University where she is studying sports management and psychology.[18]

Junior career[edit]

Liukin began gymnastics at the age of three because she was "always hanging around in the gym" with her parents, who could not afford a babysitter to look after her while they were working as coaches. Liukin's parents initially did not aspire for their daughter to become a gymnast, knowing the pressure of high-level competition firsthand, but relented when they noticed her aptitude for the sport.[7][11][19]

Liukin competed in her first National Championships as a junior in 2002, at the age of 12½. In contrast to her WOGA teammates Carly Patterson and Hollie Vise who finished first and second respectively, Liukin suffered a fall on the uneven bars which rendered her unable to finish the routine. She continued through the rest of the competition, and despite the incomplete bars set, finished 15th, which landed her one of the final spots on the U.S. National Team.[10][20] She was chosen to compete with the U.S. team at the 2002 Junior Pan American Championships, where she contributed to the team gold medal and placed second on the uneven bars, balance beam and all-around.

By 2003, Liukin was one of the strongest junior gymnasts in the United States. She won the junior division of the U.S. National Championships, as well as gold medals on three of the four events: uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise. She repeated these accomplishments in 2004. Liukin was a member of the gold-medal winning U.S. team at the 2003 Pan Am Games; she took second place in the all-around behind fellow American Chellsie Memmel. She also won the all-around in the junior division of the 2004 Pacific Alliance Championships.[21]

Born in 1989, Liukin was ten months too young to compete as a senior in 2004, and thus was not eligible for a place on the U.S. team for the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Her scores in the junior division at the 2004 U.S. National Championships were competitive with those being posted by the seniors, and Marta Karolyi, U.S. National Team Coordinator, has said that if Liukin had been eligible, she would have been named to the Olympic team.[7][22]

Senior career[edit]

2005–2006[edit]

In 2005, Liukin won her first senior National Championships and, once again, earned gold medals on the bars and beam. At the 2005 World Championships in Melbourne she finished second in the AA behind teammate Chellsie Memmel with a score of 37.822.

In event finals she won the gold on the uneven bars and balance beam, and the silver on the floor exercise.[23]

In March 2006, Liukin placed first in the all-around at the American Cup.[24] At the 2006 Pacific Alliance Championships, Liukin tied with teammate Memmel for first in the all-around, won the uneven bars title and a silver medal on beam, and contributed to the U.S. team's gold medal performance.[25] She competed at the 2006 U.S. Classic as the defending all-around champion, but falls on the uneven bars and floor resulted in a fourth-place finish. However, she scored extremely well on the balance beam, and was the only competitor in the meet, junior or senior, to earn a score over 16.00 on this event.[26]

In late August, at the 2006 U.S. National Championships, Liukin successfully defended her all-around, beam and bars titles, becoming a two-time senior National Champion. She was named to the U.S. team for the 2006 World Gymnastics Championships in Aarhus, Denmark, and was expected by many to be a strong contender for the all-around title. However, due to an ankle injury sustained in training before the competition began, she was only able to compete on one event, the uneven bars. In spite of her injury, in the qualification round, Liukin's bars set earned a 16.2, the highest score of any competitor on any apparatus in the meet. Her bars routine in team finals scored a 15.7 and helped the U.S. team win the silver medal. Liukin also qualified for the event finals on bars, where she took a small step on her dismount and finished with a 16.05, earning a silver medal behind Britain's Beth Tweddle.

2007[edit]

Liukin's ankle injury required surgery, and the recovery period kept her out of both national and international competition for much of the year. In July 2007, although she was still recovering from her injury, she returned to competition as a member of the American team for the Pan Am Games in Rio de Janeiro. She competed only on bars and beam, contributing to the team's gold medal finish and winning an individual silver medal in the uneven bars finals and an individual silver medal on the balance beam final.[14][27]

Despite limited training time on floor and vault in the summer of 2007, Liukin opted to compete all-around at the 2007 U.S. National Championships. She posted the highest score of the entire meet on bars and the second highest score on beam on the second day of competition, winning the senior bars title for the third year in a row and placing second on beam. However, she also suffered several falls and errors on floor and vault, and finished in third place overall, more than five points behind Shawn Johnson, the all-around gold medalist.[28]

Following Nationals, Liukin was named to the American team for the World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, competing all-around in the team qualifying round and in on bars and beam in the finals. Liukin's score for her bars routine in team finals was a 16.375, the highest score of the day and, in the end, the entire World Championships. However, at the end of her beam routine, her foot slipped while she was setting up her dismount, prompting her to change her usual skill, a two and a half twisting salto, to a simple back tuck. While she lost credit for her dismount, she also avoided a deduction for a fall, and earned a 15.175. The team recovered from this and other mistakes to finish first overall with 184.400, nearly a point ahead of the silver medal Chinese.[29]

Liukin's struggles with the balance beam continued in the all-around final, where she fell from the apparatus during her flight series. In spite of a 16.100 on bars, the highest score of the day from any competitor on any event, she finished the competition in fifth place. In the event finals, however, Liukin rallied and regained her World Champion title on the balance beam with a score of 16.025. She also earned a silver on the uneven bars behind Russia's Ksenia Semenova, scoring a 16.300 after taking a step on her dismount.

2008[edit]

Liukin in competition

Liukin performs on the balance beam at the 2008 U.S. National Championships.
Liukin performing on the balance beam at the 2008 Olympics.

Liukin's first meet of the 2008 season was the American Cup in New York City, where she defeated 2007 winner Shawn Johnson to regain her title. She posted the highest score of the meet, a 16.600 on the uneven bars. In March, Liukin competed at the Pacific Rim (formerly Pacific Alliance) Championships in San Jose, where she led the American team to a gold medal and won the all-around and balance beam titles. In the team competition, Liukin posted an all-time high score of 16.650 on the uneven bars, but in event finals, she fell on her Gienger release move and took a step on her dismount, earning a 15.225 and taking second place.[30][31]

At the 2008 U.S. National Championships in Boston, Liukin fell on the floor on her double front tuck the first day of competition, but had a strong meet on her other events and placed second in the all-around behind Shawn Johnson. She regained her National Champion title on the beam and defended her national title on the uneven bars for the fourth consecutive year, scoring a 17.050 in preliminaries and a 17.100 in finals, the highest recorded score for any American gymnast at any event since the advent of the new Code of Points. In June, Liukin competed in the U.S. Olympic Trials in Philadelphia, finishing second behind Johnson, and earning a berth on the American team for Beijing.

2008 Olympics[edit]

Liukin performed all-around in the qualifying round of competition. She qualified to the all-around final with a score of 62.375, which ranked her second among all competitors and 0.35 points behind Shawn Johnson, her friend and Olympic roommate.[32] Liukin also qualified to three event finals: beam, uneven bars and floor exercise.[33]

In the team finals, Liukin performed on three events: beam, bars and floor exercise. Her uneven bars score of 16.900 was the highest mark awarded in the entire Olympic competition. Liukin performed second on balance beam, matching her qualifying score of 15.975.[34][35] On floor exercise, she stepped out of bounds on her first tumbling pass, incurring a 0.10 point penalty, with a final score of 15.200.[35][36] The American team earned the silver medal, 2.375 points behind China.

On August 15, Liukin performed clean routines on all four events (sticking her landings on 3 out of 4 events) to win the all-around gold medal with a final score of 63.325.[37][38][39] Shawn Johnson took the silver medal with a score of 62.725. The win marked the third time that an American woman had won the Olympic all-around title; Mary Lou Retton and Carly Patterson were the two previous American gold medalists. It was also the fourth time in the history of the Games that two athletes from the same country have taken first and second place in the women's all-around. The last time this was accomplished was the 2000 Olympics, when Romanian gymnasts won gold and silver; Soviet gymnasts also won gold and silver all-around medals at the 1952 and 1960 Games.[40]

"Liukin is simply breathtaking [on balance beam]. From the moment she puts her fingertips onto the beam and presses herself up into the splits, her long legs unfurling like the petals of a flower, every movement is performance art. In one front somersault she lands without ever putting one of her feet on the beam, brushing it back until her leg is fully extended behind her. It's incredibly difficult – few other people even try it – yet she does it as easily as a cartwheel."

USA Today, 2008[41]

In the event finals, Liukin displayed a beautiful routine to earn a surprising bronze medal on floor exercise with the score of 15.425, behind teammate Shawn Johnson with 15.500, and Romanian Sandra Izbasa with 15.650.[42] On uneven bars, Liukin and China's He Kexin both posted final marks of 16.725, and earned identical A and B-panel scores of 7.70 and 9.025, respectively. However, He Kexin won the gold medal, and Liukin was awarded the silver, after a tie-breaking calculation that took into account individual marks given by judges on the B-panel.[43][44] In the balance beam final, Liukin scored 16.025 to claim silver behind Shawn Johnson's 16.225.[45] With her fifth Beijing medal, Liukin tied Mary Lou Retton and Shannon Miller for the most gymnastics medals won by an American in a single Olympic Games.[5][46]

Following her success in Beijing, Liukin was named the USOC Female Athlete of the Month (August) and ultimately USOC Co-Sportswoman of the Year alongside swimmer Natalie Coughlin, the Women's Sports Foundation Individual Sportswoman of the Year, FIG Athlete of the Year and USAG Sportswoman of the Year. In addition she was ranked third in the Associated Press' 2008 Female Athlete of the Year voting.

In March 2009 Liukin was announced as one of 12 semifinalists for the AAU Sullivan Award. The annual award honors the athlete who best represents "the qualities of leadership, character, sportsmanship, and the ideals of amateurism". On April 15, 2009, Liukin's Olympic teammate Shawn Johnson won the AAU Sullivan Award.[47]

2009[edit]

Nastia Liukin in 2009

Liukin decided that she was not done with gymnastics and made her first post-Olympics competitive appearance at the CoverGirl Classic, where she competed only on balance beam. She placed 2nd behind teammate Ivana Hong. Liukin thought about competing uneven bars and beam at the U.S. Championships, but decided to once again just perform on beam. She placed 4th and looked on track to possibly make a fourth World Championships team. Liukin was added to the National Team and included in the World Championships selection camp. However, she pulled out of Worlds selection consideration because she felt that she was not quite up to World Championships standards.

2012[edit]

Following several months of conditioning, training, revamping routines and showing readiness at summer training camp, Liukin petitioned for a spot at the Visa National Championships. In order for the petition to be granted, she had to show readiness by scoring at least a 14.0 on one apparatus at a qualifying event (US Secret Classic) on May 26. She did so, scoring a 14.9 on balance beam, and her petition was thereby accepted by USA Gymnastics and the selection committee.

On beam at the Visa Championships, Liukin scored a 15.1 on night one followed by a 14.1 on night two to place 6th on the event. On bars, she placed a disappointing 20th after scoring a 13.150 on night one and 13.650 on night two.[48] Despite this, Liukin was chosen to compete at the Olympic Trials.

Liukin's gymnastic career came to an end after the 2012 Olympic Trials. On the final night of competition, she fell off the bars on her Gienger release, but got back up to finish her routine and landed her first competitive dismount since her comeback. After falling, she was helped up by her coach (father) to continue her routine.[49] Her bars received a 13.950. After she dismounted her beam routine, which scored a 14.950, she received a standing ovation from the 18,000 fans in the HP Pavilion at San Jose. Despite the end of her gymnastic career, Liukin went to London as the athlete representative for the Federation of International Gymnasts (FIG).[50]

Routines[edit]

Liukin was known for her long expressive lines and flexibility. While considered weak on vault and lacking in power, she excelled at bars and beam. As of 2008, Liukin performed the following skills on these apparatus:

Apparatus Skills A Score Top Score in Competition
Vault Yurchenko 1½ 5.5 15.100 (Olympic Qualifications)
Uneven Bars Glide kip cast to HS [KCHS], Stalder shoot to HB [Ray]; KCHS, Pike stalder 1/2 to eagle grip (D), Eagle endo (D), Ono (E), Healy (E), Ono 1/2 (E), Gienger (D); KCHS, Pike stalder (D), Tkachev (D); KCHS, Pak salto (D); KCHS 1/2, Toe shoot to HB; KCHS, Giant 1/2 to eagle, double front 1/2 dismount (D) 7.7 17.1 (2008 Visa Championships Day 2)
Balance Beam Press to handstand mount arms by ears; Front aerial walkover, Back flip flop, Layout stepout; Full turn w/ leg at horizontal; Switch leap 1/2; Split jump, sheep jump; Side salto tucked; Onodi, wolf jump 1/1; Salto forward piked, take off from one leg landing on one foot to scale[Liukin]; Switch split ring leap; Round-off, 2½ twisting dismount 6.7 16.400 (2008 Pacific Rim Championships)
Floor Exercise Front Handspring (FHS), front layout 1/1, front 2/1; FHS Double front; Switch ring, Split leap full; RO 1½ -1½; Double turn w/ leg at horizontal; Switch leap 1/2; RO 2½ dismount 6.2 15.850 (2008 Visa Championships Day 2)

Following the 2008 Olympic Games, Liukin had a skill on beam named after her in the 2005–08 FIG Code of Points. The 'Liukin' was rated as a D and was described as follows: salto forward piked, take off from one leg to one foot landing to scale, hold for two seconds. Changes in the 2009–2012 FIG Code of Points meant that the skill was no longer considered as an appropriate skill; however, the skill has been re-instated in the 2013-2016 FIG Code of Points.[51]

In her 2012 comeback, Liukin performed the following skills on these apparatus:

Apparatus Skills A Score Top Score in Competition
Uneven Bars Free jump to high bar; Stalder 1/2 (C), Ono (E), Healy (E), Ono 1/2 (E), Gienger (D); kip cast to HS [KCHS], Pak salto (D); KCHS 1/2, Toe shoot to HB; KCHS, Giant 1/2 to eagle, double front 1/2 dismount (D) 6.5 14.05 (2012 Olympic Trials Day 1)
Balance Beam Split mount; Front aerial walkover, Back flip flop, Layout stepout; Switch leap 1/2, Onodi, Sheep jump; Split jump, Sissone; Full turn w/ leg at horizontal, Full turn; Side salto tucked; Aerial cartwheel; Switch ring leap; Round-off, 2½ twisting dismount 6.3 15.1 (2012 Visa Championships Day 1)

Floor music[edit]

  • 2006–2008: "Variations on Dark Eyes"
  • 2004–2005: "Second Kill" and "Building the Bullet" by Luis Bacalov
  • 2001–2003: "Rondo Capriccioso" by Camille Saint-Saëns

Media appearances[edit]

Film and television[edit]

Outside of competitive gymnastics, Liukin had cameo roles in the April 2006 Touchstone Pictures film Stick It,[52][53] a 2008 episode of Gossip Girl[54] and a quick cameo appearance on the newest Bravo TV show, NYC Prep. She has expressed a desire to become an actress in the future. Following the Beijing Olympics, Liukin appeared on many talk shows in the United States, including The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, and The Oprah Winfrey Show.

She also appeared in the second season of Make It or Break It.

Liukin was on The Tour of Gymnastics Superstars, which was broadcast nationwide on MyNetworkTV. Tapings of the second show of the tour were included in Frosted Pink with a Twist, which was a television special about women's cancers. The TV special aired on ABC on October 12, 2008, and featured singers Jesse McCartney, Kenny Loggins, Cyndi Lauper and Carole King.[55][56]

Liukin also guest starred on The CW series Hellcats.[57]

On the April 16, 2012 episode of The Price Is Right, Liukin appeared as a guest model.

Professional alliances[edit]

Liukin has her own line of gymnastics equipment, which includes mats and balance beams in her signature pink, produced by American Athletic, Inc.[58][59]

Liukin's corporate sponsors include Visa, AT&T, GK Elite Sportswear and Longines. She appeared in an Adidas commercial with Nadia Comăneci which ran during the 2004 Olympics and a 2008 commercial for Visa Inc. She signed an endorsement deal on March 15, 2010, and appears in commercials for Subway.[60] After the Beijing Olympics, she was signed to be one of four American Olympians featured on Wheaties cereal boxes.

Liukin has expressed interest in the fashion world; she has served as a Longines Sports Ambassador of Elegance since 2006[22][61][62] and, along with her teammates Shawn Johnson and Alicia Sacramone, was one of the first female athletes ever to be signed as CoverGirl spokesmodels. She also collaborated with Vanilla Star Jeans to create a junior girls' clothing line and has modeled for Max Azria.[63] In June 2010, she launched a line of girls' wear called Supergirl by Nastia for department store chain JC Penney.[64]

Liukin is also a major aide for victims of natural disasters. In October 2008, Liukin partnered with World Vision to help her home state of Texas to recover from Hurricane Ike.[65] In November 2012, she helped raise money and donated food to victims of Hurricane Sandy.[66]

Competitive history[edit]

Year Event AA Team VT BB UB FX
2002 U.S. National Championships (junior) 15 5 5
Junior Pan American Championships 2nd 1st 2nd 2nd
2003 U.S. National Championships (junior) 1st 1st 1st 1st
Pan American Games 2nd 1st 1st 3rd 3rd
2004 U.S. National Championships (junior) 1st 1st 1st 1st
Pacific Alliance Championships (junior) 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st
2005 U.S. National Championships 1st 4 1st 1st 2nd
World Championships 2nd 1st 1st 2nd
American Cup 1st 6
2006 U.S. National Championships 1st 1st 1st 7
World Championships 2nd 2nd
Pacific Alliance Championships 1st 1st 2nd 1st
American Cup 1st
2007 U.S. National Championships 3rd 2nd 1st 12
World Championships 5 1st 1st 2nd
Pan American Games 1st 2nd 2nd
2008 U.S. National Championships 2nd 1st 1st 8
Pacific Rim Championships 1st 1st 1st 2nd 4
American Cup 1st
U.S. Olympic Trials 2nd 5 3rd 1st 2nd
Olympic Games 1st 2nd 2nd 2nd 3rd
2009 U.S. CoverGirl Classic 2nd
U.S. National Championships 4
2012 Secret U.S. Classic 3rd
U.S. National Championships 6 19
U.S. Olympic Trials 7 10

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]