Nastia Liukin Video Interview, U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist
When you listen to U.S. Olympic Gymnast Nastia Liukin, 22, tell the story, it seems she was destined to be an Olympian from the time she was born. Nastia’s father, Valeri Liukin, won two gold and two silver medals as a Soviet gymnast in the 1980 Olympic Games. Her mother, Anna Kotchneva, was a world champion rhythmic gymnast. “I remember as soon as I knew what the words ‘Olympic games’ meant I wanted to go there,” Liukin told Uinterview exclusively. “Whatever that meant, I wanted to go to the Olympics and I wanted to follow in their footsteps and achieve what they did.”
A winner of nine World Championship medals and five Olympic medals in the 2008 Beijing Games, Liukin has made her mark as one of the most successful gymnasts of her generation. Hoping to go for gold again at the London Olympics, Liukin was looking to build upon the silver medals she received in team gymnastics, bars and beam. “Silver, you’re so close to winning the gold and fourth place you’re so close to getting a medal. Going into these Olympics, I think that on those three I can definitely upgrade on those, and I think that for the U.S. it’s been quite a few years since Team USA has won the gold medal as a team,” she told Uinterview prior to qualifications. Unfortunately, Liukin didn’t make the team – but she remains in the Olympic Pantheon and looks to have a bright future in the entertainment world.
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I run about six days a week, just three miles so it’s nothing too crazy, but just enough to keep my endurance up and my strength up. I start that at 7 a.m. and I go to the gym at around 8 o’clock and I train till about 11. Then I have a small break and lunch, and then I train again from three to six. It’s that schedule about six days a week.
It’s not been easy — not that I thought it would be easy, but I’m not really sure what I thought. 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.
This time around, I definitely feel like I was at the peak of my career in 2008, and so I’m not sure exactly if I can top that. I won’t be doing the all-around competition, hopefully just beam and bars. Winning a silver medal on team, winning silver on bars and silver on beam is very much of a motivating factor, because silver medal and fourth place are always the hardest. Silver, you’re so close to winning the gold and fourth place you’re so close to getting a medal. Going into these Olympics, I think on those three I can definitely upgrade, and I think that for the U.S. it’s been quite a few years since Team USA has won the gold medal as a team. I think that’s one of all of our goals.
Both my parents were gymnasts. My dad went to the 1980 Olympic Games and won two gold and two silver medals. My mother was a world champion in rhythmic gymnastics. I think I was a gymnast before I was actually born. I just always had a passion and love for the sport of gymnastics. 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.
Mentally, I do a lot of visualizing in my routines and in my mind the night before the competition or even before I’m about to salute and step onto the podium, I feel like that really helps. And a lot of positive thinking. I know it sounds very easy, but I believe if you think bad thoughts or negative thoughts, you’re going to attract those negative circumstances and everything to you. So I think it’s important to always keep a very positive mind-set and to stay as calm as possible. As hard as that is in the Olympic games, everywhere you look you see the Olympic rings, and you try to tell yourself this is just another competition, but it’s not. [Laughs] It’s very hard to stay calm, but I think once you can kind of focus on that and really focus on your performance, then at the end of the day, all you can control is your performance. You can’t control what the judges do, what scores they’re going to give you or what the other countries are going to do. I find that’s what’s most important.
For me, it’s really important to get enough protein in. I don’t really eat too many carbs. It’s more protein and vegetables to make sure I have enough energy to get through a seven-hour workout or a competition that sometimes runs long. It’s really important to always stay fueled and to drink plenty of water. That’s been something that’s pretty essential to make sure that you’re hydrated at all times. And after the competition, I don’t know what I’ll splurge on. Maybe like a cookie? I’ve been pretty strict with myself, especially going into training right now. This is go time. There’s no more next week or next month. It’s all about the time is now.