Olympic champ Nastia Liukin: Never quit after a bad day!

Olympic gymnastics champion Nastia Liukin, center, told LSY! that her mom told her never to quit after having a bad day. If you're going to quit, Nastia's mom said, you need to do it after a good day.

Olympic gymnastics champion Nastia Liukin, center, told LSY! that her mom told her never to quit after having a bad day. If you’re going to quit, Nastia’s mom said, you need to do it after a good day.

Nastia Liukin knows how to be the best. She knows how to handle pressure, and she definitely understands what it’s like to perform and live in the spotlight.

As an Olympic champion, these things are part of her everyday life. LSY!’s Francesca Harvey caught up with Nastia, the all-around gold medal women’s gymnastics winner at the 2008 Olympics, after the dress rehearsal for the Progressive Skating & Gymnastics Spectacular.

Here is Francesca and Nastia’s conversation, edited for space and clarity:

What are the biggest misconceptions about fame?

Nastia: I think the whole thing is a little weird. I always did gymnastics because I loved the sport and I never thought it would really get me to where I am today. So, of course the accomplishments that I’ve had in this sport have been amazing. I guess people wanting to know more about your personal life, who you’re friends with – that type of thing – is very weird. I think also getting recognized is something that was weird to get used to.

How do you constantly deal with the pressures of being famous?

Nastia: I always try to take it one day at a time, and not really think about being famous. I always find something that I love to do. For me, that was gymnastics for many years. Now, (it’s) being able to perform in shows, finding a passion, and setting goals for myself that I’m always striving to achieve.

What are some of the positives and negatives of being so well known?

Nastia: I guess a positive is just having so much support from around the world and knowing that people appreciate what you have done for this sport. A negative may be just not being able to spend as much time with your family and friends because of traveling so often.

When you won the all-around gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, how did the pressure change?

Nastia: Being watched all the time — you know you never can get away from that. It’s also really cool to know so many people were cheering and supporting you (through) the entire journey, especially in your hometown community. I live in Dallas, so every time I am home I love being able to come home and know that everyone is proud of you no matter what.

How has being in the spotlight changed your perception of those that you idolized as a child?

Nastia: Being in the spotlight is definitely not easy. I definitely give them a lot of credit for what they do, in sports, or the music industry, or the acting world … It’s definitely not easy.

In gymnastics, the pressure to be tiny and fit is high. What is that like?

Nastia: You know, I think it was definitely easy for me. Wanting to achieve a certain goal, I knew I had to eat well. I knew I had to exercise both inside and outside of the gym. Everything revolved around gymnastics and my dreams of becoming an Olympic champion. As long as you are very determined and able to have a goal – whatever it is that you want – and go after it every single day, then you can’t really let those kinds of pressures get to you.

When you were in the gym, when did you realize that this was what you wanted to do?

Nastia: I realized at a really early age. Both my parents were gymnasts so I spent a lot of time at the gym. I was 12 years old when I made the first Junior National team for my first time. I think at that moment I realized that this was something I really wanted to do on a higher level.

How do you handle the nerves with so many people watching you?

Nastia: Staying focused on yourself, and not all of the people watching you. Also, just doing the same things you have been doing at home and in your own training gym.

Sometimes they tell gymnasts not to show emotion, especially when they have a bad fall. What do you do?

Nastia: It’s different every time, depending on how well my performance is going. Of course, you don’t want to show too much that you are upset and disappointed. Just get yourself up and finish what you’ve started.

Was there ever a time you wanted to give up? If so, what kept you going?

Nastia: There were definitely times I wanted to give up and my mom was really good with trying to help me. She always told me I could never quit on a bad day. After every bad day, she told me you can never quit unless you have a good day. If you have a good day and you still want to move onto something else, that’s totally fine. You always have to have a passion for what you are doing.

What advice can you give to our Live! Starring … You! fans who have dreams of becoming an Olympic champion?

Nastia: Set goals for yourself. Not just long-term goals, but daily, weekly, and monthly goals. This way, you feel like you are really striving to achieve something. Don’t ever be afraid to dream too big.

— Interview by Francesca Harvey, LSY! deputy editor, with assistance from Hailey Rose Gattuso, LSY! sports editor
Mount St. Mary Academy

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