Nastia Liukin became a household name this summer when she won five Olympic medals, including all-around gold in gymnastics, at the Beijing games. But hers was hardly an overnight success—the 19-year-old has been competing since age six. Her parents were both top gymnasts, and despite setbacks and injuries (including surgery on her ankle in 2006, followed by a long recovery), Nastia never gave up on her goal of being a world champion.
Q: How has your life changed since becoming an Olympic champion?
A: It's a dream come true. It's amazing to know that all the years of hard work paid off. It wasn't an easy journey, especially with injuries, but it was worth it. I'm traveling all over right now. I miss my family, but at the same time, I have so many opportunities that would have never come around if it weren't for my gold medal!
Q: What was your most memorable Olympic moment?
A: Finishing my floor routine in the all-around competition and jumping into my dad's arms, knowing I had won the gold. It was exactly 20 years ago at the 1988 Olympic Games when he competed and won two gold and two silver medals. It made it even more special to experience it with him.
Q: What keeps you motivated?
A: I always set goals for myself: daily, weekly, yearly and long term. My long-term goal was always the 2008 Olympic Games, but I needed short terms goals as well, so I felt like I was accomplishing something. That always kept me going.
Q: What's your best tip for healthy living?
A: Don't go crazy about dieting. Eat healthy, but if you want to splurge and have a cookie, then have a cookie. Depriving yourself is the worst! Exercise on a daily basis. Whether you take your dog for a walk, go for a run in the park or just do some ab moves in your living room, it's very important to do something every day!
Q: What kind of diet do you follow?
A: I have always preferred healthy foods. For breakfast I like to have oatmeal, eggs, or yogurt. For lunch I'll have a salad with protein, either chicken or fish. And dinner is my lighter meal, protein with veggies. I also love sushi!
Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
A: I hope to have graduated college, but still be involved in gymnastics. I want to help change the world somehow! I want to help get kids involved in exercising and healthy living. I'm looking forward to getting back into competition shape, and competing again!