Connect with us


Women’s History Month Interview Series: Q&A with USA Olympic Gymnast Nastia Liukin

Throughout her career, Nastia Liukin was a key member of the U.S. team. Nastia has won nine World medals (four gold & five silver), which is tied for second most all time with Shannon Miller, and five Olympic medals, making her one of the most celebrated gymnasts in U.S. history.

The story of 2008 Olympic Champion gymnast Anastasia “Nastia” Liukin is that of the true American dream. Born in Moscow, Russia to Valeri and Anna, both champion gymnasts themselves in their native country, the Liukin’s moved to the U.S. when Nastia was two & a half years old, wanting to give their daughter every opportunity.

Throughout her career, Nastia was a key member of the U.S. team. Nastia has won nine World medals (four gold & five silver), which is tied for second most all time with Shannon Miller, and five Olympic medals, making her one of the most celebrated gymnasts in U.S. history.

Nastia took some time out to answer some questions about her career as we continue our annual celebration of women in sports throughout March, which is Women’s History Month.




Gregg Snyder: Gymnastics. In three words or less, what does the sport mean to you?

Nastia Liukin: Passion


GS: Both of your parents were champion gymnasts and you got into the sport at a young age. Did you ever feel forced into it?

NL: Never. I remember my parents always trying to pull me off the bars or the balance beam. I never wanted to leave the gym. I fell in love with the sport at such an early age and had an enormous passion and drive that never left me, to this day. They wanted me, as their only child, to be happy. My happiness was gymnastics.


GS: You’ve experienced tremendous success while competing in gymnastics. Is there one accomplishment that stands out above the rest?

NL: Winning the 2008 Olympics was by far the greatest accomplishment of my career, but a standout moment for me was the 2012 Olympic Trials. Although I had hoped to make a second Olympic Team and it didn’t end exactly how I had hoped, I ended my career with two standing ovations of almost 20,000 people. (My first standing ovation of my entire career) Something I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life.


GS: What do you find to be the best AND worst aspects of being a female athlete?

NL: Doing what you love to do and hopefully inspiring other girls to be brave, fearless, and dream big. Growing up in the public eye and constantly being watched and scrutinized while wearing a leotard. It’s not always easy, therefore it is important to have self confidence and not always give in to other people’s thoughts.


GS: What women have served as your role model(s) and inspiration?

NL: Maria Sharapova has been someone I have really looked up to in the sports world. Not only has she been successful in her sport, but she has also created a life and career for herself outside the sport.


GS: You have over 200,000 followers on Twitter and are active on many social media sites. How do you handle all of the attention from fans and followers?

NL: It’s interesting because when I competed at the Olympics in 2008, I didn’t even have twitter, instagram, or a public Facebook. Now with a combined million followers, I realize the power of a simple post and how that can affect someone. I don’t really feel as though I need to not post certain pictures, or be afraid someone will take a picture of me in public that I don’t want on social media because I live a life that I’m proud of and I’m just me. I know that a lot of little girls see me as a role model and I take that very seriously.  I try to live each day with the values that are important to me and always stay true to myself.  Social media gives me a chance to interact directly with the fans that have supported me through the years and that’s pretty cool.


GS: Fashion. You have your own clothing and apparel lines. How did that come about and do you see it evolving?

NL: As a gymnast, the leotard that you compete is very important. Stepping onto the podium at a competition is like a runway at a fashion show… People are looking at you, wondering what leotard you will wear this year, etc. My mom and I have designed all my own competition leotards since I was 12 years old and that kind of developed my interest in fashion. After the 2008 Olympics, I got to attend Fashion Week and start wearing dresses and heels, as opposed to wearing leotards and workout clothes. That’s when I really got into fashion.


GS: As a student at NYU, studying Sports Management, it seems like sports is just a major part of who you are and always want to be. What are your goals with a potential degree in this field?

NL: I really wanted to be a little more hands on with my own career and be able to make my own decisions instead of relying on others. Studying at NYU has really given me the opportunity to dive into all aspects of the sports business.  I feel prepared to take on the next phase of my career when I graduate and that is really exciting.




GS: Does it ever amaze you when looking back at your career and how far you’ve come? You even now have a gymnastics event named after you, the Nastia Liukin Cup.

NL: It really is incredible. I never did gymnastics with a goal of making money or making this a career. Sure I wanted to be successful, but to me success in the sport was setting goals like maybe – just maybe – one day I would be a World Champion like both of my parents and compete in the Olympic Games.  Now to look back and know that not only did I accomplish all of my goals in the sport, but I have now also made a career out of something I truly just did because I thought it was “fun” and I loved it, is still a little mind boggling to me. Now with the Nastia Liukin Cup in its 6th year, it’s so special to me to be able to watch other young girls experience the excitement of competing on such a big stage.  And, of course, I have to pinch myself when I look up and see the signage and realize that I actually have a competition named after me…it’s more than I could have ever imagined.


GS: With all of your appearances, speaking engagements, and philanthropy work. Why is that stuff so important to you?

NL: It sounds a bit cliché, but it’s true that it is so important to give back and always remember the sacrifices people made to help you get to where you are in life.  For me, I am committed to doing whatever I can to encourage girls to have self confidence in life and sports – that has really become my passion.  I started the Nastia Liukin Cup in partnership with USA Gymnastics in 2010 with the hope that it would give other girls the opportunity to experience what it is like to compete in a major televised competition.  I remember how exciting it was for me to compete on a big stage when I was younger and for me to be able to offer that chance to other young girls is such an honor.  This year the Nastia Liukin Cup will be at AT&T Stadium in Texas – it doesn’t get any bigger than that!


GS: When you think of women’s sports as a whole, how do you think it can improve, whether it be performance or notoriety?

NL: Well historically men’s sports receive more attention than women’s, but in gymnastics it’s the opposite of that trend and the women are more popular.  However, I think a greater concern is the lack of interest in “Olympic sports” in the four years between Games.  Taking gymnastics as the example, there are amazing competitions every year whether it be on a national, world or collegiate level and I would like to see more attention brought to those events and athletes.


GS: Favorite Sports movie?

NL: Miracle… I watched it in Beijing the night before I won the gold. It was so motivating and inspiring.


GS: If you could have dinner with three people, dead or alive, who would they be and why?

NL: Taylor Swift. I respect how she has taken her career into her own hands and has really stayed true to her brand instead of transforming into what society might want her to be.

Pierre de Coubertin because he started the Olympic Games over 200 years ago (1894) and for me and so many others it has changed our entire lives.  This was a man with a vision that is now a global phenomenon…it just proves the power of a dream.

Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig, designers of Marchesa.  I have been lucky enough to attend several of their shows during Fashion Weeks and the creativity that I see from them on the runway always inspire me when designing for my own leotard line, GK by Nastia.


GS: March is Women’s History Month. What type of legacy do you hope to leave, not only through your career, but as a woman?

NL: I hope I can inspire girls to have big dreams and to believe in themselves.  When I achieved what I thought was my “lifelong goal” at the age of 18, I quickly realized that it was time to develop new life goals and keep myself motivated because that was just the beginning of my journey.  I will graduate next year from NYU and then it will be time to take another new step to kick off my post-college career and that challenge is really exciting – the possibilities are endless!

Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

More in Feature