Despite hard work and training, former Olympic gymnast Nastia Liukin couldn't overcome a shoulder injury and a three-year retirement to win a spot on the 2012 U.S. gymnastics team. Liukin, the daughter of two former Soviet gymnasts, has always been a fan favorite and led the U.S. team to victory in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She was the 2008 all-around champion, and with nine world championship medals (seven of them individual), she's tied only with Shannon Miller for the second-highest amount of medals won (Liukin's former teammate Alicia Sacramone has 10 medals). Liukin officially retired in 2008, but announced in 2011 that she was taking up gymnastics again, hoping to make the 2012 games.
"Things were a little bit different for me, coming into this competition," she said Wednesday evening after rehearsals. "But just to be back here is amazing. If you'd told me four years ago that you'd be competing at the 2012 Olympics, I probably wouldn't have believed you. So I think just being able to be here at all and have this chance of trying to make the Olympic team and being one of the 15 that are trying to accomplish the same thing is amazing."
Unfortunately, a poor performance this weekend dashed those hopes. On Friday evening, Liukin botched her dismount off the bars and fell off the beam (her specialty events) and on Sunday, she fell off the uneven bars again, performing a move she had done thousands of time—only this time she landed on her stomach. Still, Liukin got up to a standing ovation and finished her routine and she ended the second night of trials by performing an almost almost flawless beam routine. And at only 22 years old, she's got her whole life ahead of her. Besides traveling to London to watch the Olympics, Liukin plans on attending NYU next year and attaining her degree. After that, it's anybody's guess as to where her career will take her.
While Liukin did say that a second Olympic games was something she "never really thought would happen," she didn't want to have any regrets—and she thought she would if she didn't try one more time. "Going into it this time around, it was all about the team," she said. "It's not necessarily about individual success anymore. I've already achieved that. If I could be part of the team, if I could help the U.S. anyway that I could, I'd be absolutely be honored to do so."
Ultimately, the U.S. will face the Olympics without her, and while she'll be missed, this year's team (check out the ladies who'll be heading to London!) is a strong one, with no visible weak links. We can't wait to see what happens next.
Did you catch the gymnastics trials? What do you think of this year's team?