Nastia Liukin, Olympic Champion: Wow!

Nastia Liukin salutes the judges after her balance beam routine, en route to the all-around gold in Beijing.

Nastia Liukin salutes the judges after her balance beam routine, en route to the all-around gold in Beijing.

With elegance, style, poise, her signature pink leotard and a ton of flawlessly performed difficulty, Nastia Liukin captured the women’s all around gold medal, living up to promise and expectation that’s surrounded her since she won her first junior national championship in 2003.

Shawn Johnson took silver, while China’s Yang Yilin proved her all-around mettle, leading after two rotations and finishing with the bronze.

It was a class field that performed wonderfully. There was nary a huge mistake, save Jiang Yuyuan on vault. Yang, given her relative lack of experience and the enormous pressure to follow up Yang Wei’s heroics before the home crowd, also had the meet of her life. Her bronze was well deserved.

Liukin, however, was the class of the field, putting together the four best routines she’s done in years and not giving an inch to her competitors. So she was underscored on vault. Maybe Johnson was a bit underscored on bars. Maybe Yang was overscored on beam. The best woman still won. That’s all that matters right now.

What I liked most about this competition was that Liukin in some ways did something that seems almost relegated to old school gymnastics — she stuck her landings on vault, her beam dismount, and on that very difficult first tumbling pass. She polished every movement. She made it look easy. Johnson, despite sticking her bars dismount cold, did not. They talk about that a lot in gymnastics these days, but we so rarely see it now, particularly on vault.

When Liukin retires (and I hope it’s not this year) she’ll be remembered as one of the greatest American gymnasts ever — for her heritage, for her elegance, for her innovations (she was gutsy enough to attempt a quad on floor), for competing as a senior elite for three long years before the Olympic Games, for not listening to people who said she was too old, for not listening to people who said she was a two event gymnast, for not letting that ankle injury consume her, for maintaining a healthy rivalry with Johnson, a gymnast who is day to her night, and continuing to believe in herself.

She’s not the new Mary Lou. She’s nothing like Mary Lou, except in spirit. Maybe in 20 years some artistic kid will come along and they’ll wonder, “Could she be the next Nastia?”

Fantastic, Nastia. Just fantastic.

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18 Responses to “Nastia Liukin, Olympic Champion: Wow!”

  1. Patty Palmer Says:

    What a beautiful champion Nastia makes! Finally, artistry meshed with a huge dose of difficulty won out. How exciting for gymnastics.

  2. gymfan Says:

    She was beautiful last night. Just beautiful.

  3. USA PRIDE Says:

    I think it is terrible that Nastia didn’t wear the USA TEAM colors. The people and corporations of the US sponsored and cheered for her. She is there representing our country and at the very least could have worn a red, white or blue bodysuit. GO USA

  4. ella Says:

    I wanted Shawn to win for the longest time, but Nastia stole my heart! She has waited so long and fought so hard to overcome adversity. I think it’s so hilarious that Tim/Al comment on how there were ‘doubters’ on 2007 when she was injured….THEY WERE THE ONES DOUBTING HER! Way to go Nastia, you had the performance of your life.

  5. Shana Says:

    I was so, so, SO happy to see Nastia win last night. She was absolutely fabulous and deserved that gold medal. I was in a panic every time she stepped on to the floor, I just kept begging, “please let this be more like pre-injury Nastia, please.” And it was.

    Probably my favorite moment from these games will be the moment that Shawn Johnson congratulated Nastia. Did everyone else see that? I didn’t notice until the replay (I’m a bit of a night owl), but when Nastia went up to salute the crowd after it was “official” that she’d won, Shawn bounced over and tapped her on the back to get her to turn around…adorable.

    Oh, and apparently Khorkina approves. Must be because Nastia has the Russian blood…

  6. Michelle Says:

    I can be the most cynical, jaded, person in the world at times but both Nastia and Shawn were able to bring tears to my eyes. They are both undeniably the best in the world and completely deserved their metals. Both of these girls had a lot to overcome, from Nastia’s injury last year, underaged performers, and questionable judging. I love the fact that both Nastia and Shawn pushed themselves hard and how strong their families are. I believe it goes shows self determination and doing what you love because you CHOSE to triumphing over being put into a near slave camp at age 3 because the government told you to. Both of these girls are good students and if they were Chinese kids they wouldn’t have been able to go to school.

    And as much as I am proud of Shawn I am still glad that Nastia won gold. People were saying that Nastia was washed up and she proved today that she is the best in the world. Nastia is older and taller so to see her do well is kind of like having a shorter person who is good at basketball or tennis since they don’t have a clear physics advantage over other players.

    Congrats to Nastia and Shawn, the entire team USA, their coaches, their families and everyone else who worked so hard!

  7. brit Says:

    i think though shawn is amazing..Nastia really did caputer everyones heart yes she had some trouble she lost a year of training because of her ankel but she was on the rise at the right time . Looking back on all the losts “national’s… even worlds” it all doesn’t realllly matter now does it…. she is the all around olympic gymnasts! Competion of her life on the right day. after the year she had last year and the struggle and the blacklash..that to me is a true champ..every kept putting Shawn before Nastia..going from the “in” girl to people saying she was “out”… to coming back and winning the all around that is a true champ… Shawn never faced the challenges that Nastia did..while she is amazing..Nastia’s struggle to me is what makes her “caputer america’s heart and the american/russian sweetheart!

  8. kassiane Says:

    Nastia totally earned it. At the beginning of the quad I didn’t like her but by last night I was cheering for her soo hard. She stepped up for the team all quad (even through injuries) and that individual gold, she earned it AND deserved it.

    And Shawn was a total class act, being happy for Nastia instead of upset that she got silver (in that field, a HUGE accomplishment). Good for her. I hope they BOTH stick around.

  9. Catherine Says:

    I LOVE NASTIA. i think overall this field was extremely competitive. im just so happy she one. she’s such a gym icon

  10. Marcus Says:

    “I think it is terrible that Nastia didn’t wear the USA TEAM colors. The people and corporations of the US sponsored and cheered for her. She is there representing our country and at the very least could have worn a red, white or blue bodysuit. GO USA”

    She won the biggest prize you can win in gymnastics for the USA and all you worry about is her leotard color? Pink is her favorite color, she can wear it if she wants to. It still has USA on it.

    GO NASTIA! I’m so happy she won!

  11. brit Says:

    “I think it is terrible that Nastia didn’t wear the USA TEAM colors. The people and corporations of the US sponsored and cheered for her. She is there representing our country and at the very least could have worn a red, white or blue bodysuit. GO USA”

    i doubt the corporation that sponser her will care one bit!!! she won and she is there spokes girl..she caputered soo many heart and so many little girls will now wanna be the next “Nastia” and really its a color people!!..i didn’t know we in american we are only defined by red white and blue

  12. amanda Says:


    I’m with you. Every other US athlete at the games will be wearing/has been wearing colors that represent our country. Gymnastics and Nastia should be no different.

  13. Anna Says:

    Nastia is GORGEOUS, she not only won my heart with her story, but she was so graceful with all of the gymnastic events. She has such beauty and grace, she represents a woman fully, with art and beauty, not just pure, ugly strength.

  14. TCO Says:

    Nastia represents a over-aesthetic concern of a certain subsegment of gym fans, who should go watch rhthmic or ballet. Shawn represents the “let’s flip cause it’s fun and exciting” subsegment of fans. She’s the female Jon Horton. And that’s good.

  15. shergymrag Says:

    “let’s flip cause it’s fun and exciting”

    Shawn has said she wanted to quit up until a month before the games. That doesn’t sound like she thought it was fun and exciting to me.

  16. TCO Says:

    yeah…I haven’t got it all square either. I think the sport is not good for women in some ways.

  17. David Greer Says:

    Sponsorship is what this comes down to with the colours .Teen agers dont care about what county thay are in becoues its so Culture mixed!
    I like The USA flag colours even though- I am a kiwi. And our girls have
    Black leotards with a silver fern . Our flag looks like the british flag .Even I have trobble telling them a part.Nastia Liukin knows whats best and hope she viserts our country…She is representing her self is she not?
    Did you know If you asked chrilden here in nz to draw the nz flag thay will draw the Austrailan flag the Māori flag the ansette and Air nz tail fin
    and lots more so wearing the leotards for advertizing olny !no way The national emblem and keeping it has gone out the window thats what chrilden do these days thay dont care! about keeping heritage .Or trodishion/I had not a clue that Nutasr was Russian she prolby changers her cell-phone to a diffrent colour depending on whats the trend.
    No one flag challenging the current one over here all teen agers are anti-royalist flag. Has got one over us when it becomes protecting us just in case of war.The london next one will play A big part in the grece war 2012 .and it can depend on the colour of these under weight girls leotards !Oh I am so sorry I do get A bit hasty Hay cool website please make a comment from a man with Aspergers//Nutasr–Nastia–ha I think shes fine..

  18. Alicia Says:

    Nastia…por que no fuiste a los mundiales de gimnasia? por que tampoco fue Shawn Jhonson, Chen Fei? las mejores os habeis quedado fuera…espero verte en londres 2012 tambien a Shawn y a Chen…

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