Nastia Liukin: What's Next for Former Olympic Great?
She may not be making a run at a second straight Olympics, but that doesn't mean Nastia Liukin's career is over.
The gymnast who captured America's heart four years ago made a bid to be a part of her second straight Olympic team, but fell short during Sunday's trials, when she scored a 13.950 on the uneven bars and a 14.950 on the balance beam, falling well behind her peers.
Only the gymnast who finishes in first place at the trials is assured of a spot at the Olympics, while the remaining four team members are chosen by committee following the conclusion of the trials.
Liukin won't be one of those members, the 2008 individual all-around gold medalist whose two early mistakes during her uneven bars routine on Sunday put an end to her dreams very early. She finished 10th in the uneven bars and seventh on the beam.
Even after falling short, though, Liukin was still the crowd-pleaser she was four years ago, receiving standing ovations from the crowd and the admiration of her peers for trying to become the first Olympic gymnast to return for a second straight games since 1980.
Liukin announced her plans to come out of retirement a year ago, but didn't fully begin her comeback bid until January, which might have been too late. She battled shoulder issues the whole way and couldn't quite get back to where she needed to be in order to compete with this new crop of Olympic hopefuls.
But even after falling on her dismount and posting a subpar score on her first routine, the idea of withdrawing never crossed her mind. She told the Associated Press:
I knew that I had no doubt in my mind I was going to come out here and finish and walk out of here on my terms, not because somebody wanted me to be done. … Getting up after a fall is never easy. It’s always very tough. It shows your true character if you are able to get up and that’s something I’ve been taught since I was 8 years old.
It's disappointing that Liukin won't be representing the U.S. again in 2012, but it's not entirely unexpected. There are five younger, more prepared gymnasts who will make a bid to bring home a gold in London this summer, and all of them will try to do what Liukin did: make America fall in love.
Though Liukin is unsure whether Sunday's competition was her last, she has no regrets about attempting a comeback,. She told USA Today's Kelly Whiteside, "Whether or not this is my last competition, I'm excited to be here."
Even if retirement is up next for her, at least she tried one more time.
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