Nastia Liukin was born into a gymnastic dynasty. An Olympic gold medalist, she is one of the country’s most accomplished athletes. Monday night, she makes her debut in the ballroom of Dancing With the Stars. To hear Liukin tell it, her Olympic history and lineage are little help in her quest to win the mirror ball trophy.
In an interview with The Dallas Observer, she revealed the two endeavors — dancing and gymnastics — have little in common.
“It’s the complete opposite from my gymnastics routines. The hand, hip, and foot placement is the total opposite from what my body is used to so it has taken me a while to adjust.”
“I definitely have a gymnastics background, but I have never had a dance class in my entire life… so he’s in for a treat,” she told ABC’s Good Morning America last month, referring to her partner Derek Hough.
To add to the stress of the competition, Liukin is doing double duty as a student and Dancing With the Stars contestant. After retiring as a competitive gymnast, education has become a priority, and the show had to be fit in with her academic schedule.
“I have about a year left of school and ever since I finished my competitive career that’s always been a big goal. So that was kind of my first thing: I would love to do this, but I can’t just drop a semester. So, I have to go to class right from here. So we’ll fly Sundays, take the red eye back Monday. He’ll go to his show Tuesdays and I’ll go to class.”
Liukin is studying sports management at NYU.
Nastia Liukin made her Olympic debut in 2008 and won the all-around gymnastic gold, as well as an individual bronze and silver, and a silver as part of the U.S. women’s team.
Liukin was born in Russia to Valeri and Anna Liukin, both champion gymnasts. Valeri won two gold medals at the 1988 Olympics and Anna was the 1987 rhythmic gymnastics world champion. The family moved to the U.S. when Nastia, short for “Anastasia,” was 2 and-a-half.
Her parents, unable to afford a babysitter, took her with them to the gym as they started coaching the sport.
Liukin got words of support from her former teammate Shawn Johnson, who also appeared on Dancing With the Stars and partnered with Derek Hough.
Gymnasts tend to perform well on Dancing With the Stars, but Liukin has a long road ahead of her and faces tough competition from other well-known celebrities and inspiring personalities.
Dancing With the Stars airs Monday nights on ABC stations.
[Nastia Liukin image courtesy of Getty]