Going Beyond the Gold: Interview With Nastia Liukin

Nastia Talks About Her Role at the 2012 London Olympics

How do you prepare yourself before competing? Do you have any pre-competition rituals?

I don't really have any rituals, but I do a lot of visualizations. Right before I compete, like the day before, I always visualize my routines in the way that I want to perform them. I think about routines in the way I've done them hundreds of thousands of times back at home in the gym and I try to keep a positive mindset. I always have a positive outlook in all aspects of my life.

In addition to all the medals and accolades, what has this sport given you?

This sport has given me so many amazing opportunities and experiences. I'm teaming up with Fisher-Price to launch the Fantastic Gymnastics Dora doll. I'm extremely passionate about gymnastics and inspiring children everywhere. I hope the doll will inspire kids to try gymnastics, so they'll realize that it's never too early to start setting dreams.

Even though you didn't qualify to be a member of this year's Olympic team, you're still going to London as the athlete representative for the Federation of International Gymnasts. What does this role entail?

Being the athlete rep for the Federation of International Gymnastics is a huge honor for me because gymnasts from all over the world elected me to be the middle person between all the gymnasts and the committee. If there's an issue or concern, a problem that the gymnasts have, it's my job to relate it to the women's technical committee for gymnastics at the Olympics. The committee creates all the rules -- the difficulty level, the bonuses, the code of points. I'll also be doing some on-camera TV work and a few other things throughout the games, so I'll be there for the duration. It's a big role; I take it with a lot of pride and responsibility.

What is your relationship like with the members of this year's women's and men's gymnastics teams? Have you worked or trained with any of them before?

On a professional level, I'm involved with the women's team, but personally we're all great friends and the guys are like our older brothers. In 2008 I was one of the younger gymnasts, so it was nice having people watching out for me. Right now, looking at the five girls competing in London, it's been amazing to see them progress over the past few years and to see their dreams come true just a few weeks ago in San Jose, making the Olympic team. It's something that I'll remember, and I'm excited to cheer for them in London.

Do you have any predictions for this year's winners? Anyone that you're particularly impressed by?

I think all five of them are very impressive. At the last world championship, the team got a gold medal. Jordyn Wieber won the all-around competition less than a year ago in Tokyo, and Gabby Douglas won the all-around at this year's Olympic Trials. It's going to be a very healthy but competitive environment. What's exciting is having one of your biggest competitors training right by your side on the same team.

What's next for you? I read that you'll be attending New York University.

Yes, I'll be moving to New York City in January and I'm excited to go to NYU. I've put school on hold for the past five years while training, traveling, and doing a lot of great things because of the success I had four years ago at the Olympics. But school has been very important not only to me but to my parents, so I knew this would be something that I wanted to do; it was just a matter of time. I think this is the perfect transition period of my life as I wrap up my competitive career and focus on the rest of my life.

What will you study?

I hope to study sports management. That's definitely the plan right now, but anything can change.

I'm sure gymnastics will continue to play a big role in your life.

Absolutely, and with my parents, too. They own three gyms in the Dallas area so it will be a part of my life forever and I couldn't be happier. It's such an amazing foundation to have. Even if kids don't love gymnastics, if they start at any age with some classes, they can learn so many different things -- they can build a lot of character, strength, flexibility, and courage. Hopefully, they can also develop a sense of fearlessness. I started very early, and I had my first competition when I was 6 years old. I've been competing for many years and every single time I compete, a little piece of that moment sticks with me forever.

Photo credit: Peter Larsen

Copyright © 2012 Meredith Corporation.

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