Liukin: Young in spirit, if not in body anymore

Nastia Liukin

Two-time U.S. champion Nastia Liukin celebrated her 18th birthday by telling International Gymnast Magazine’s Amanda Turner that the 2008 Beijing Olympics might not be the swansong of her career.

“I am really focusing on this year coming up, but I’m definitely not thinking about retiring right away!” said Liukin, who lives and trains in Texas. “I can’t imagine my life without gymnastics right now. I would like to continue for as long as my body will hold up.”

Liukin has generally seemed pretty good about recognizing that the Olympics aren’t the be-all and do-all of one’s life, or even one’s gymnastics career. It’s a healthy attitude, and one that will help her out a lot if next summer doesn’t quite go as planned.

“My heart is in the sport more than ever, and I am simply loving what I do,” she said. “I feel like I have worked so hard and so long, and to just finish next year would be almost strange.”

Eighteen seems about the age when gymnastics commentators — if not gymnasts themselves — start thinking about retirement. The talk from the NBC trio at the 2007 U.S. Championships in August was fraught with the idea that Shawn Johnson will only be 16 in Beijing, while Liukin will be 18, nearly 19. Sheesh. Maybe that’s why younger gymnasts do better in international competition — they know nobody’s about to ask them what their retirement plans are at the post-meet press conference.

It should be noted that even in gymnastics, Olympic gold medalists don’t all come in young packages. Liu Xuan was 21 in Sydney. So was Svetlana Khorkina. Shannon Miller was 19 in Atlanta.

Shannon Miller, 1996 Olympic Games Event Finals, Balance Beam:

Liukin, who is tied with Miller for most medals won by any U.S. gymnast at the World Championship competition, might see that as oine reason to keep competing after Beijing. Breaking Miller’s record would be a unique accomplishment, and solidify her place as one of the greatest American gymnasts of all time.

Not that it needs much more solification — from here, eveything else should be looked at as icing on a very golden cake. Happy birthday, Nastia.

— Further reading: Liukin good at age 18 from NBCOlympics.com

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6 Responses to “Liukin: Young in spirit, if not in body anymore”

  1. Katrina Says:

    while I think Nastia is good, I feel that Shannon Miller was a better gymnast. But that is my opinion

  2. Overrated Says:

    Shannon won two AA medals at Worlds and she would have won more if she wasn’t always injured. Nastia is a 2 event gymnast. The medals she won in 2005 in the AA and floor were her only non beam and bars medal.
    There is no comparison. Shannon also has 7 O;lympic medals/.

  3. Overrated Says:

    Shannon won two AA medals at Worlds and she would have won more if she wasn’t always injured. Nastia is a 2 event gymnast. The medals she won in 2005 in the AA and floor were her only non beam and bars medal.
    There is no comparison. Shannon also has 7 Olympic medals.

  4. rondeen Says:

    Are people really serious??? there is are still gymnasts in there twenties and thirties compeating in elite gymnastics. There is no way she is too old.

  5. barjam Says:

    I loved watching shannon, but she is in the wrong profession for commentating. I watched one with her and Tim Daggett. She was like dead weight, quiet. Quite boring. If gymnasts spend years learning not to speak, to listen, they don’t need to go on T.V. as spokes people. Sorry. Speak up, say something, or get off the air.

  6. Emma Says:

    In response to the comments above comparing Nastia to Shannon, I personaly believe the two cannot be compared. They are competing under two extremely different codes, against different gymnasts and in different times. Nastia is an extraordinary gymnast with good sportsmanship, an elegant, precise style of gymnastics and a sophisticated, mature personality. She speaks well to the media and has brought many new fans to the sport – therefore contributing hugely to gymnastics. I firmly believe she is one of the greatest US gymnasts ever, and the fact that she plans to continue with gymnastics after the olympics displays her love of the sport, and her determination to achieve as well as she can. Well done Nastia!

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