Published August 15, 2008
Twenty years ago in Seoul, Valeri Liukin won Olympic gymnastics gold for the Soviet Union. On Friday, his daughter Nastia repeated the feat — but for Team USA.
Nastia Liukin, who helped the Americans win a silver medal in the team competition earlier this week, took to the floor in Beijing to compete for individual honors in the all-around competition and brought home a gold medal.
Liukin edged teammate Shawn Johnson, finishing with 63.325 points, a mere six-tenths ahead of Johnson.
It's an event that's in the 18-year-old's blood.
Her father went on to win four medals — two gold and two silver — at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games as a member of the USSR National Team. He remained on the team until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.
His daughter's journey to Beijing began soon after she was born in Moscow in 1989. When her family moved to the United States after the end of the Soviet Union, Anastasia "Nastia" Liukin found herself tumbling on the mats.
"I was always running around and on the bars, and that's kind of how I started," she said on her Web site NastiaLiukin.com.
Her parents' lack of a babysitter meant the young Nastia would grow up in the gym where her parents worked.
The Liukins had hoped their daughter would steer clear of the sport, but they realized her talent and allowed her to begin competition at the age of 6. By 12, she was an elite gymnast.
"I do this for myself," Nastia Liukin said. "I like the sport; I like everything about it."
In her career, she has won the World Championship four times, medaled nine times at the Worlds and captured four U.S. National Championships under the instruction of her father, who also works as her coach.
"She looks skinny and fragile, but really she's a tiger," her father said.
The younger Liukin's career has had its twists of fate, including an ankle injury that required surgery in 2006, but she has rebounded, helping Team USA win silver Wednesday in the team competition.
Her father told the Dallas Morning News that they had planned to "push it to the limit" on the uneven bars, where she scored a 16.9 in the team final this week.
"Like my coach told me, you don't risk, you don't get to drink champagne ever," he told the paper. "So that's what we do."
Out of the gym, Nastia Liukin is like any other teen. She watches "Gossip Girl" and listens to Carly Patterson. She plans to finish school at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and maybe become an actress or begin a career in international business. She's already appeared in the gymnastics movie "Stick It."
Through it all, she's been mentored by her dad.
"At the gym, he's my coach," Nastia Liukin said. "At home, he's my Dad."
On Friday, as she competes, he'll be both.