Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Nastia Essay

This was an essay for my sports psychology class... it's on Nastia Liukin and how she's my role model for many many reasons. I thought I'd share it with you guys, seeing as it's, uh, gymnastics related. Haha.

Nastia Liukin – My Hero

Nastia Liukin is twenty years old and has already accomplished more than the average person will in their entire life – not only does she have five Olympic medals, she’s been featured on TV shows and video games, modeled for Max Azria, and designed a line for Vanilla Star jeans. Many might say she’s just a lucky girl… but without the hard work and long hours she put in at the gym, she would not have the story she has today.
Anastasia “Nastia” Liukin was born on October 30, 1989 in Moscow Russia. Her father, Valeri Liukin, was the 1988 Olympic champion in the team and high bar competitions – her mother, Anna, was the 1987 world rhythmic gymnastics champion in the clubs. Whether Nastia wanted it or not, gymnastics was in her blood – and it just so happened she wanted it more than anything else in the world. When Nastia was just two years old, her family up and left Russia to start a gymnastics facility in the United States, taking former Russian gymnast Evgeny Marchenko with them. Their gym, WOGA, opened in Plano, Texas in 1992. Unable to afford a babysitter for little Nastia, her parents would bring her to the gym with them and let her play. Nastia quickly fell in love with gymnastics, begging her parents to let her try. Sure enough, they put her in a class and she progressed with great speed. Though Valeri and Anna had not intended for their daughter to become a gymnast, it was happening before their very eyes. Nastia quickly moved through the levels and made it to junior elite. She qualified to her first national championships, where she did well enough to make the national team. The next two years at nationals, she was the back-to-back all-around champion. Had she been just one year older, she likely would have made the Olympic team traveling to Athens. However, she set her sights on Beijing, still four years away.
Nastia’s first year as an elite was full of highs and lows. She won her first senior national title, and easily made the team that would be traveling to Melbourne, Australia for the 2005 world championships. There, she missed out on the world all-around title by the slimmest of margins - .001 – to teammate Chellsie Memmel. Not to be discouraged, Nastia looked to the beam, bars, and floor finals. She won two of the three – bars and beam – and earned a silver on floor. One year down, three to go.
2006 was off to a great start. Nastia won her first American Cup and another senior national title. Then, disaster struck – an ankle injury that would require surgery. She rehabbed the injury quickly enough to go to 2006 Worlds, but she would only compete bars. She earned a silver medal for her efforts in Denmark. 2 years down, 2 to go. Halfway to Beijing.
2007 was a hard year. Nastia opted to sit out the first half of the year to let the ankle injury heal as much as possible before nationals. She only started doing the pounding events again – vault and floor – a week before nationals started. It was not her best showing, counting many falls and mistakes, and new competition was emerging in the name of Shawn Johnson. Nastia lost her first national championship in four years, ending the meet in third place. Many people ruled her out for 2008, saying she was “too old”, “too broken”, or “too inconsistent”. She still qualified to the 2007 worlds team, and vowed to make an impact there. She helped team USA earn only its second world title, and qualified to the all-around competition. Things were looking good until beam, where she fell and ultimately gave the title away. Shawn Johnson went on to become world all-around champion, while Nastia sat in fifth. Nastia still had bars and beam finals, and she wanted nothing but gold. She surprisingly lost out to Russian Ksenia Semenova in the bars final, but beam turned out to be her shining moment. She was again world champion. Just one year to go until Beijing.
2008 proved to be one of the greatest of Nastia’s life. The year began with nationals, where an uncharacteristic mistake on floor ultimately gave Shawn Johnson the title. On to Olympic Trials, where (again) mistakes put Nastia in second place. Shawn looked nearly unstoppable, having only lost one meet since the beginning of 2007. Since they’d finished one-two at Olympic Trials, Shawn and Nastia were automatically named to the Olympic team. Who would win?
Beijing brought tears, joy, and heartbreak. Team USA went in looking only for the gold, but wound up with the silver, losing out to home team China. Nastia and Shawn were both qualified to the all-around final, and tensions mounted. If neither of the girls made mistakes, the competition would be even – it would go to whoever performed and executed their skills better. Ultimately, Nastia was the better gymnast that night, performing near flawlessly on vault and floor. She was on top – Olympic champion. What she’d worked 19 years for. In her own words… “I was physically and mentally more prepared than I have ever been in my life. I was so ready to be there and to have the best performance of my life. And I was excited. I think that is the most important thing. I was excited and confident.” She is living proof that if your have confidence and belief in yourself, you can do anything, no matter what everyone else says. Nastia wound up leaving Beijing with five medals – all around gold, team, beam, and bars silver, and floor bronze. She tied with Mary Lou Retton and Shannon Miller for the most medals earned in one Olympic games.
After Beijing, Nastia took a bit of a break, taking time to model, design, and appear on tv shows. In January of 2009, she started to get back into the gym. By July, she was in competition shape on beam, and appeared at the 2009 US Classic and US Nationals. She was in contention to make the worlds team, but felt she should withdraw in favor of someone who was more prepared. She’s now taking another break and setting her sights on the 2010 season.
When asked how Nastia accomplished what she did, she replied, “Set goals for yourself. I always set daily, weekly, monthly, and longterm goals. Strive to achieve them! Whether it be running a mile every day for a month, or winning a gold medal at the Olympics, setting goals has played a huge role in overcoming obstacles and achieving success in my life and my sport.”
Nastia is a great example of sports psychology at its finest. She’s the definition of mental toughness. When people were doubting whether she would even make the Olympic team because of her ankle injury, she came back and proved each of them wrong, making the team and doing the best of any competitor. She sets goals and strives to achieve them. She’s also a good sport in everything that she does. And that’s why Nastia Liukin, 2008 all-around Olympic champion, is my hero and my role model. ☺

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Kyla Wins Jr. Pan Ams

Supposedly... according to Bogwoppit over at the Chalk Bucket.

The US Women were strong, finishing 1-2-3-4.

1. Kyla Ross
2. Sabrina Vega
3. Alexandra Raisman
4. Bridgette Caquatto

They were all sporting (ugh) the pink leo. BLAH. Can't we at least wear American colors, ladies? The pink is old. I never want to see it again. Unless it's on Nastia. But NO ONE ELSE! :]

(ps - new layout on the way)