Nastia Liukin’s father was a four-time Olympic medalist in gymnastics and her mother was a world champion in rhythmic gymnastics. But even as the Liukin family emigrated to the United States and opened a successful gymnastics training facility, it was not in the plans for Nastia to follow in her parents’ footsteps.
“We know what gymnastics is about, what it takes,” said Valeri Liukin, who won two gold and two silver medals at the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games while representing the Soviet Union. “We know all the travel, all the time in the gym. We were very busy when we were gymnasts, and we just jumped into gymnastics again. We kept moving ahead, no time to think. But we didn’t think that’s what we wanted for our daughter.”
But as the Liukins built their business, Nastia was always in the gym. And it quickly became apparent that not only was she a talented gymnast, she had a burning desire to become an elite athlete.
“She was flexible,” Valeri Liukin said. “She was able to do routines without coaching that the girls I was coaching couldn’t do.”
“I never wanted to take my leotard off,” Nastia Liukin said. “I wanted to sleep in it all the time. They would try to come in when I was asleep and take it off. If I woke up, I was hysterically crying because I wanted to keep it on. I’m sure that’s when they thought I really loved it and gymnastics would probably be a big part of my life.”
The Liukins became U.S. citizens and Nastia blossomed as a star gymnast. She won the junior national championships twice, but was too young to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Team for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. Four years later, however, Liukin shined at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, winning the individual all-around gold medal, along with two silver medals and a bronze in individual events and helping the U.S. team take silver in the team all-around competition.