Throughout her life, Nastia Liukin has set goals and achieved the majority of them. But when the Russian-American gymnast suffered a horrible fall at the Olympic trials on July 1st, she learned the most valuable lesson of her life.
The video is jolting. But the dead silence of failure was quickly overcome by two human responses. One was a sense of relief that Liukin was okay, while the other was that of inspiration because of what she did next.
America will never forget Liukin's determination to lift herself up and brush herself off. She is a fighter, and to this day she continues to do just that.
After a three-year layoff, Liukin failed to make the team for the 2012 London Games, but it has not stopped her from being the face of Team USA.
In a fascinating show of strength and character, she has represented America on various levels, while rooting for the red, white and blue.
During the Olympic's opening weekend, Liukin was front and center, with appearances in person, on camera and in the digital world of social media. She interviewed with Matt Lauer, wrote her first blog with NBCOlympics.com, attended First Lady Michelle Obama's event called "Let's Move" and became the spokesperson and model for TIGI Haircare USA.
She also showed how much she cares for the team she was once captain of.
"I couldn’t be more excited to cheer on Team USA," Liukin wrote on her blog. "It’s been such a thrill for me to watch Jordyn, Gabby, Aly, McKayla and Kyla progress through the years and now the whole world will get to see just how talented these girls truly are."
Liukin knows how to represent herself and Team America at the Olympic Games because she is a wily veteran.
In 2008, she made the Olympic team in Beijing, China, and won five medals, including the gold in the All-Around competition. According to Wikipedia, "Liukin is just the third female gymnast to win Gold in the event." By capturing five Beijing medals, Liukin also "tied Mary Lou Retton and Shannon Miller for the most gymnastics medals won by an American in a single Olympic Games."
But when it comes to describing herself, Liukin points out flaws instead of the confidence and beauty that resonates from her.
During an interview with Woman's Day at the Beijing Games, she mentioned another failure as her favorite competitive memory at the time.
In 2002, when I was 12, I competed in my first Junior Nationals. I fell off the uneven bars during the first rotation and hurt my right elbow; I wasn’t able to complete the routine. But I fought to finish the competition, and even though I only got a score of 6.8, made my first Junior National team. This was one of my proudest moments in the sport.
A lot has happened to Liukin since. Some of it's been good, and some of it's been bad. But she always sees the light at the end of the tunnel, and she appreciates those who have stuck behind her through thick and thin.
"Seeing all of the thousands of people on their feet, you couldn't have planned out a better way to end a career," Liukin told Associated Press writer Will Graves, in reference to her fall at the Olympic trials.
In an interview with HLN, Nastia talked about her fall at the 2012 Olympic Trials in San Jose, CA. HLNTV.com
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.
And now, just two months later, Liukin is back, with a smile that lights up London. Her charm is contagious, and she hopes to serves as a role model for others to lean on.
"Getting up after a fall is never easy," said Liukin, in her AP interview "It's always very tough. It shows your true character if you are able to get up"
In the meantime, she'll keep the memory of her most recent failure close, because it will inevitably lead to her next achievement.
"Many times in life it’s not about the triumph. It really is how you handle the struggles," Liukin blogged. "I learned a lot about myself that day."