Nastia Liukin

Gymnasts Today Show
NBC

Mary Lou Retton, Carly Patterson, Nastia Liukin talk Rio 2016 on TODAY (video)

Leave a comment

Three of the four U.S. Olympic all-around champions gathered to discuss the AT&T American Cup and Rio Olympics on TODAY on Friday morning.

Mary Lou Retton, Carly Patterson and Nastia Liukin share not only Olympic titles but also American Cup victories in the year they appeared at the Games.

That highlights the importance of Saturday’s AT&T American Cup, where the fourth U.S. Olympic all-around champion, Gabby Douglas, will compete for the first time this year (NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra, 1 p.m. ET).

Retton, Patterson and Liukin were also asked who the U.S.’ biggest competition will be in Rio and who the contenders are to make the five-woman Olympic team.

VIDEO: Simone Biles conquers incredibly tall rope climb

Nastia Liukin recalls 2012 Olympic trials fall, concussion in ‘Finding My Shine’

Nastia Liukin
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Nastia Liukin says her 2008 Olympic all-around victory was not the defining moment of her life.

Rather, what happened four years later proved more of an inspiration for the gymnast’s memoir, “Finding My Shine,” which went on sale Tuesday.

In 2012, Liukin emerged from three years off and attempted to become the first U.S. women’s gymnast in 12 years to make back-to-back Olympic teams.

The comeback ended, for all intents and purposes, on a blue mat below the uneven bars at the Olympic trials in San Jose, Calif.

Liukin, now an NBC Olympic analyst, was competing on her trademark event and faceplanted on a release skill on which she also fell in her first national competition in 2002, when she was 12 years old.

She recalled that evening in this excerpt:

“Everything in 2012 hinged on two nights of competition. My bar routine was very difficult, but it was one that I had done thousands of times. I started out well and felt very, very confident. But about twenty-five seconds into the routine, I let go of the bar, flipped, twisted around, and when I came back toward the bar to grab it, I missed it and hit the ground hard, flat on my face.

In that instant, I knew my gymnastics career was over. Then a lot of things happened very quickly. After my body had absorbed the impact of the fall onto the hard mats, I pulled myself onto my knees. My dad, who had been spotting me rushed over. His first words spoke of his concern for me. “I’m okay,” I told him, rolling my neck around. I wasn’t really. My neck hurt and I later was found to have suffered a mild concussion, but I didn’t know that then.

One of the first things a gymnast learns is how to fall. While the fall looked and sounded worse than it was, we are taught to fall flat, to avoid landing on a limb and breaking it. In the very last moment I knew I was not going to catch the bar or my dreams for that matter.

I was only thinking about the fall, but I can imagine the conflicted thoughts that were running through my dad’s mind. As my coach and spotter, it was his job to catch me if I fell. But, if he touched me, even laid one finger on me when I could have actually caught the bar on my own, it was an automatic one-point deduction to my score. When scores are calculated in thousandths, a full point is a huge price to pay.

To catch me––or not? My dad only had a split second to make his decision, and up until the last instant even I thought I was going to catch the bar. I’ve watched the video of that fall many times, and if I had been in his shoes, I have to say that I would have made the same decision as he did. I am positive that even if he had caught me, I still would have fallen. Then we both would have gone down, and one or both of us could have gotten hurt.

I knew I had just thirty short seconds to get back up on the bars and finish my routine––if I chose to. Life is all about choices. I could have walked away, even walked out of the gym and all the way back to Texas, and no one would have faulted me for that choice. Well, no one but me. I knew that this was a decision I would have to live with for the rest of my life, and if I wanted to end my career on my terms I had to finish my routine. I also knew that if I completed this routine I would also have the courage to finish anything I ever started in my life. Besides, my dad had always taught me to finish what I started.

The crowd was eerily silent as I walked to re-chalk my hands. Then, when I walked back toward the bars they erupted into a deafening round of cheers. I had never heard anything like it before. The cheers were so loud that their echoes banged around inside my head and it was hard for me to think. I nodded at my dad and he boosted me back up onto the bars. And because I knew my career was over, I forgot about the competition. I forgot about the crowd, and my team. I forgot about the television cameras, photographers, and reporters. I finished that routine for my dad. He had been with me every step of the way, through all of the ups and down inside the gym and out. Whenever I faltered he’d always say, “Get up and go,” so I did. I finished that routine and I have to say, I enjoyed every second of it.

At the end, I landed on my feet. Then I saluted to the judges, and the now silent crowd burst once again into rousing cheers. I was in total shock at their reaction. And when I looked up into the crowded arena, I saw almost twenty-thousand people on their feet. I was getting a standing ovation! Even all of the other coaches were clapping for me. So many emotions were flowing through me that I didn’t know what to do. Tears formed and began to roll down my cheeks. I had just finished the absolute worst routine of my career, and these people still were supporting me. I waved to each section of the crowd and mouthed thank you. Their reaction was actually hard for me to comprehend. I loved what this wonderful group of spectators had done for me, but did not yet quite understand it. Then I saw my dad, went over to him, and hugged him for all the years of love and guidance that he had devoted to me.

I had never earned a standing ovation before. Not even when I won the all-around at the Olympics. I still find it very ironic that the first time people thought enough of my performance to stand up and clap for me was when I fell, splat, onto some very hard gymnasium mats.”

MORE GYMNASTICS: U.S. takeaways from World Championships

Nastia Liukin eliminated on ‘Dancing With the Stars,’ reflects on finishing fourth

Nastia Liukin, Derek Hough
Leave a comment

Beijing Olympic all-around champion Nastia Liukin finished in an unenviable position for an Olympian on “Dancing With the Stars,” fourth, missing the three-couple finale by being eliminated Tuesday.

Here’s video of the elimination announcement.

Liukin was later asked if it compared to missing the 2012 U.S. Olympic team, four years after she won five medals at the Beijing Games.

“Not really,” she told “Access Hollywood” after the show, attended by her parents.

“As a gymnast, I was always so used to focusing on scores and placements and trying to be at the top,” Liukin told AfterBuzz TV. “[Partner] Derek [Hough] really just taught me to live in the moment and enjoy the journey and be myself, most importantly. I think that’s the biggest thing that I take from it is it’s OK to not be perfect. It’s OK to be emotional and be vulnerable.”

Liukin, 25, said she next returns to New York University to take spring semester finals. She’s also slated to be the Indy 500 Grand Marshal on May 24.

Liukin’s Beijing Olympic gymnastics teammate, Shawn Johnson, won “Dancing With the Stars” in May 2009 and finished second in an all-star edition in November 2012.

London Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman finished fourth on the show in May 2013.

Simone Biles discusses Martha Karolyi’s team selfie, U.S. teammates, more

Here’s the history of Olympians and one Paralympian competing on “Dancing With the Stars:”

Season 1 — Evander Holyfield (1984, boxing)
Season 4 — Apolo Ohno (2002-2010, short track speed skating) — WINNER, Clyde Drexler (1992, basketball)
Season 5 — Floyd Mayweather Jr. (1996, boxing)
Season 6 — Kristi Yamaguchi (1992, figure skating) — WINNER, Monica Seles (1996-2000, tennis)
Season 7 — Maurice Greene (2000-2004, track and field), Misty May-Treanor (2000-2012, volleyball)
Season 8 — Shawn Johnson (2008, gymnastics) — WINNER
Season 9 — Louie Vito (2010, snowboarding), Natalie Coughlin (2004-2012, swimming)
Season 10 — Evan Lysacek (2006-2010, figure skating)
Season 12 — Sugar Ray Leonard (1976, boxing)
Season 13 — Hope Solo (2004-2012, soccer)
Season 14 — Martina Navratilova (2004, tennis)
Season 15 — Shawn Johnson, Apolo Ohno
Season 16 — Dorothy Hamill (1976, figure skating), Aly Raisman (2012, gymnastics)
Season 18 — Meryl Davis (2010-2014, figure skating) — WINNER, Charlie White (2010-2014, figure skating), Amy Purdy (2014, snowboarding)
Season 19 — Lolo Jones (2008, 2012, 2014, track and field/bobsled)
Season 20 — Nastia Liukin (2008, gymnastics)