Team USA fans will remember Nastia Liukin as the graceful gymnast who won five medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics--tying for the record of most medals won by an American gymnast in any one Olympic Games. So it comes as no surprise that the 2008 all-around champion attempted her second Games in the 2012 Olympic Trials a few weeks ago. Though the decorated athlete didn't make the team, her integrity and spirit shined, and the gymnast will be joining Team USA in the upcoming London Games. We were able to chat with the poised Liukin about the Olympic Trials, her plans for the Games and beyond and her thoughts on our chances for gold in London. Ending Her Olympic Career on a High Note
Liukin said her decision to compete for her second Olympic team came naturally, because she knew she'd be going to London either way and the athlete "didn't want to have any regrets." Though she wasn't able to make the cut, Liukin doesn't regret the decision, as she was able to finish her career with two standing ovations from nearly 20,000 viewers at the Trials. According to Liukin, that moment "ranks up high" in her accomplished career--on par with "winning the all-around gold medal four years ago."
Playing Ambassador at the Games
Though she won't be competing, Liukin will be in London as an athlete representative for the Federation of International Gymnasts (FIG), acting as a liaison between the competing gymnasts and the organization. Though her position requires her to remain neutral, Liukin admits that "deep down, I'll be cheering for our five girls on Team USA."
A Legend's Insight on Team USA
Having watched the girls of the USA gymnastics team and competed in the Olympics herself, Liukin is a unique position to predict Team USA's chances for success in London. "Going into this Olympics, [our team] is definitely one of the strongest, if not the strongest, team we've set out in many years," said Liukin. "I think we have a very good shot of winning the gold medal." That said, three of our gymnasts will be competing for each event, so it will come down to "being consistent and staying confident" while giving their best performances.
Liukin also shared her thoughts on each of our individual female gymnasts. The frontrunners are Jordyn Weiber
(the current reigning world all-around champion) and Gabby Douglas
(who won the Olympic Trials), who are "definitely two to watch out for," says Liukin. But don't count out the other three athletes--Liukin describes Aly Raisman
as "a powerhouse... even I am mesmerized by her floor routine because it is just jam-packed with difficulty." And according to Liukin, McKayla Maroney
(as the reigning world vault champion) is "the one to beat on the vault, for sure." Lastly, there's newcomer Kyla Ross
, whom Liukin commends for making the team as her first year as a senior. "She's a very clean gymnast," says Liukin. Ross's routines are "packed with difficulty, and her execution is just exquisite."
Big Plans Ahead
After finishing her duties at the 2012 Olympics, Liukin is teaming up with Fisher-Price to launch their new interactive Fantastic Gymnastics Dora doll. The project combines two of Liukin's passions, "gymnastics and inspiring kids to go after their dreams." Then, after a national tour ending in November, the busy Olympian is moving to New York to begin the next major project in store: college at NYU.
For the full video interview, watch the clip below.
Lastly, if you're watching the Olympics on TV, check out the BuddyTV Guide app's new "2012 Olympics" quicklist -- it puts all the Olympics TV coverage in the palm of your hand, organized by time and your personal cable/satellite setup.
(Image courtesy of WENN)