Russian-American gymnast, four-time all-around U.S. national champion, 2008 Olympic individual all-around champion
"Nastia Liukin is a Russian American former artistic gymnast. She is the 2008 Olympic individual all-around champion, the 2005 and 2007 world champion on the balance beam, and the 2005 world champion on the uneven bars. She is also a four-time all-around U.S. national champion, winning twice as a junior and twice as a senior. With nine World Championships medals, seven of them individual, Liukin is tied with Shannon Miller for the third-highest tally of World Championship medals (among U.S. gymnasts). Liukin also tied Miller's record as the American gymnast having won the most medals in a single non-boycotted Olympic Games.
Liukin was a key member of the U.S. senior team. She represented the United States at three World Championships and one Olympic Games. In October 2011, Liukin announced that she was returning to gymnastics with the hopes of making a second Olympic team. Liukin did not make the 2012 Olympic team, after several falls at the Olympic Trials and other pre-Olympic events, and retired from the sport in 2012.
In the team finals, Liukin performed on three events: beam, bars and floor exercise. Her uneven bars score of 16.900 was the highest mark awarded in the entire Olympic competition. The American team earned the silver medal, 2.375 points behind China.
On August 15, Liukin performed clean routines on all four events (sticking her landings on three out of four events) to win the all-around gold medal with a final score of 63.325. Shawn Johnson took the silver medal with a score of 62.725. The win marked the third time that an American woman had won the Olympic all-around title; Mary Lou Retton and Carly Patterson were the two previous American gold medalists. It was also the fourth time in the history of the Games that two athletes from the same country had taken first and second place in the women's all-around.
"Liukin is simply breathtaking [on balance beam]. From the moment she puts her fingertips onto the beam and presses herself up into the splits, her long legs unfurling like the petals of a flower, every movement is performance art. In one front somersault she lands without ever putting one of her feet on the beam, brushing it back until her leg is fully extended behind her. It's incredibly difficult – few other people even try it – yet she does it as easily as a cartwheel."
—USA Today, 2008
In the event finals, Liukin displayed a beautiful routine to earn a surprising bronze medal on floor exercise with a score of 15.425, behind Shawn Johnson, with 15.500, and Romanian Sandra Izbasa, with 15.650. With her fifth Beijing medal, Liukin tied Mary Lou Retton and Shannon Miller for the most gymnastics medals won by an American in a single Olympic Games.
Following her success in Beijing, Liukin was named the USOC Female Athlete of the Month (August) and ultimately USOC Co-Sportswoman of the Year alongside swimmer Natalie Coughlin; the Women's Sports Foundation Individual Sportswoman of the Year; FIG Athlete of the Year and USAG Sportswoman of the Year. In addition, she was ranked third in the Associated Press' 2008 Female Athlete of the Year voting.
In March 2009, Liukin was announced as one of 12 semifinalists for the AAU Sullivan Award. The annual award honors the athlete who best represents "the qualities of leadership, character, sportsmanship, and the ideals of amateurism." On April 15, 2009, Liukin's Olympic teammate Shawn Johnson won the AAU Sullivan Award.
After several months of conditioning, training, revamping routines and showing readiness at summer training camp, Liukin petitioned for a spot at the Visa National Championships. In order for the petition to be granted, she had to show readiness by scoring at least a 14.0 on one apparatus at a qualifying event (the U.S. Secret Classic) on May 26, . She did so, scoring a 14.9 on balance beam.
On beam at the Visa Championships, Liukin scored a 15.1 on night one, followed by a 14.1 on night two to place sixth on the event. On bars, she placed 20th after scoring a 13.150 on night one and 13.650 on night two. Despite this, Liukin was chosen to compete at the Olympic Trials.
Liukin's gymnastics career came to an end after the 2012 Olympic Trials. On the final night of competition, she fell off the bars on her Gienger release, but got back up to finish her routine and landed her first competitive dismount since her comeback. After falling, she was helped up by her coach (her father) to continue her routine. Her bars routine received a 13.950. After she finished her beam routine, which scored a 14.950, she received a standing ovation from the 18,000 fans in the HP Pavilion in San Jose. Despite the end of her gymnastics career, Liukin went to London as the athlete representative for the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG)." (1)