4 Things You Didn’t Know About Olympic Gold Medalist Nastia Liukin
It’s been a couple of weeks since the Winter Olympics ended, but our gold medal fever is still going strong! Even though we weren’t able to watch the games live in South Korea, we got the chance to sit down with none other than USA Gymnastics champion, Nastia Liukin!
Not only is Nastia a fantastic gymnast — she’s also a content creator, social media guru, and entrepreneur. She was kind enough to stop by our office during a short trip to San Francisco when she told us some unforgettable moments from her gymnastics career.
Nastia began her gymnastics career at age three
Nastia began practicing gymnastics at only three years old while hanging around the gym with her parents, who are also gymnasts. While Nastia’s parents didn’t necessarily expect their daughter to follow in their footsteps, they stood by her side and taught her much of what she learned. At only 12, with nine years of experience under her belt, she competed in her first National Championships. At age 18, Nastia won five medals at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, including one gold, three silver, and one bronze. By the time she was 22, Nastia retired from her fulfilling gymnastics career. Fast forward six years, at only 28 years old, Nastia has had quite the career, and quite the life. Although gymnastics isn’t part of Nastia’s daily routine anymore, she has discovered new hobbies, including mentoring young gymnasts and exploring entrepreneurship.
Nastia is a major #girlboss
Not only does Nastia kill it in the gym, but she has taken her talents to the tech industry! Nastia is the founder of her own app called Grander! Grander (you can download it here in the app store) is an inspirational place for gymnasts to be personally mentored by their biggest idols, including Nastia herself. The app features a wide community of Olympic gymnasts, collegiate coaches and recruiters, sports nutritionists, and more. Using the app, Nastia wants to acknowledge that everyone’s path and journey are different by catering to everybody.
Growing up, Nastia’s parents guided and mentored her through many practices, competitions, and Olympic trials, surrounding her with first-hand advice that she highly revered. “I was very lucky that my parents were Olympic and world champions, and I had so much great guidance in the sport.”
After retiring from her gymnastics career, Nastia realized that not every gymnast received the same advice she did. When telling us about some upcoming gymnastics competitions she’d be attending as an onlooker, she mentioned, “There could be a girl training in Tampa [who] doesn’t have an Olympic gold medalist in front of her [who] she can constantly ask questions and learn from.” She wanted to create a place where young gymnasts everywhere could be surrounded by a community of mentorship and encouragement. All the content on the app is super real and raw and unfiltered,” explains Nastia.
“Life is about so many other things, and [I want] to give these young girls, these young women, a place where they have a lot of mentors right at their fingertips.”
One routine ended Nastia’s career
Everyone endures challenges in life that land us on our faces — quite literally, in Nastia’s case. After tying the record for most individual medals at one Olympic Games in 2008, Nastia tried out for a second Olympic team in 2012. “As a reigning Olympic gold medalist, I had a lot more eyes on me that year, so I was expected to make the Olympic team,” Nastia reminisced. “I always strived to be the best - to win.”
At this particular tryout in 2012, Nastia approached the uneven bars in her red Adidas leotard, confident that this was her best routine. Nastia began the routine seamlessly, just as she’d practiced so many times. Upon an attempt to land on her feet, Nastia fell flat on her face instead. Time froze as she laid flat on the floor in shock. “I remember laying there on the mat and realizing that I wasn’t going to make the Olympic team...I was retiring right then and there.”
Nastia’s father (also her coach) immediately rushed to her side and said, “You don’t have to finish this. You can just be done,” but Nastia knew better. She stood up, shaking, and walked to the other set of bars where she finished the event and landed perfectly on her feet. Twenty-thousand onlookers stood in unison, giving Nastia a standing ovation for the first time in her career for the worst routine of her career.
“That moment…became the defining moment of my career. I always thought that people [were] only going to love me or support me or cheer me on if I won, if I was the best, or if I got the gold medal. People are still going to love me and support me and cheer me on, even if I fall on my face - literally.”
Nastia’s Olympic career came to a close in that moment, but Nastia stayed positive in the midst of change. “Everything happens for a reason - I’m just a true believer in that. You’re going to understand the reason one day, even if you don’t understand it now…Life isn’t always about being the best.”
Despite retiring from gymnastics, Nastia is instafamous!
As much as she loves Instagram and other social platforms, Nastia actually didn’t have Instagram until after her Olympic reign.”[Instagram is] really cool but [it’s] also really important for me to give people a more in-depth look at who I am as a person,” she says.
Little kids often tell Nastia, “Your life looks perfect on Instagram!” but Nastia reminds us that even she has a normal life, too. “You don’t always have people doing your hair and makeup, and your stylist pulling clothes for you. I have days where I’m a normal person.”
There’s obvious pressure that comes with more than 1.5 million social media followers, but Nastia finds creative ways to express her creativity off the mat. As an athlete and influencer, Nastia wants to teach her followers that life isn’t about who has the most Instagram followers, or who can become the most famous. Life is about so many other things, especially authenticity. Nastia carries this theme into her brand partnerships, striving to create content that remains raw, real, and true to who she is.