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Nastia Liukin Transitions From Gymnast To TV Analyst

April 14, 2014

With the short shelf life of a competitive gymnast, Nastia Liukin knew she couldn't wait until she retired to start preparing for life after gymnastics. 

Before retirement even crossed her mind, Liukin, 24, recalled a piece of advice she had received from her father and coach, Valeri Liukin, after she competed in her first national championships as a junior in 2002. Valeri Liukin was a four-time Olympic medalist for the Soviet Union at the 1988 Sumer Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. 

"When I was 13, my dad told me that gymnastics will only get you so far in life," Liukin said. "He said an education will stick with you for the rest of your life, so I've really kept that with me over 10 years now." 

A five-time Olympic medalist and nine-time World Championship medalist, Liukin captured gold during the individual all-around at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, becoming the third U.S. women's gymnast to accomplish that feat. She said she had always wanted to move to New York City for college following the end of her gymnastics career. 

Nastia Liukin
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Nastia Liukin

In January 2013, less than six months after her 20-year career came to an end at the U.S. Olympic trials in San Jose, Calif., Liukin left her hometown of Dallas for New York to attend New York University and study sports management, she said. 

"After I finished my competitive career, it was kind of the perfect transitional phase for me to be able to pick up and move to a new city and start school," Liukin said. "For sports management, I have always just been really interested in the business aspect of sports, because it has been such a huge part of my life for years." 

Liukin said she had already applied what she had learned during her first two years at NYU to a second career she hoped to pursue in TV. 

In addition to being a full-time student, Liukin has served as a commentator and analyst for NBC Sports Group's television and digital coverage of USA Gymnastics' premier events since 2013. 

Liukin knew her knowledge of the sport and work ethic would help her make a smooth segue from the competition floor to the broadcast booth, she said.  

"When I'm watching it, I recognize exactly what's going on, and I know the girls really well, so it was a natural transition for me," Liukin said. "Obviously, I know I'm not great at it yet, but I think that comes with experience. I'm just really looking forward to getting better and better at it as we get closer and closer to Rio." 

Although Liukin said she missed performing in arenas packed with thousands of screaming fans, she also acknowledged that she had accomplished her goals as a gymnast and enjoyed being on the other side of the camera. 

"I think we all have our moment when it's time to move on with our life and career," Liukin said. "Now, it's somebody else's chance to go out there and perform, so I'm really content with where am I right now." 

Liukin's broadcasting duties also included a trip to Sochi, Russia, to work as a correspondent for NBC's coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. 

Born in Moscow and a dual citizen of the U.S. and Russia, Liukin said she had used her Russian heritage and perspective for her "All Around Sochi" segments, which included daily features on Olympic athletes and lessons in several of the 15 winter Olympic sports for "The Olympic Zone," a 30-minute daily show broadcasted on NBC's family of networks. 

"It was very exciting," Liukin said, "because I was born in Russia, and I had never been to Sochi before, so it was a new experience for me. I was so excited to be able to be on the broadcasting side of things for NBC. I got to work with some of the most amazing producers, so it was definitely a great experience." 

Three days after games ended, the Dallas Cowboys and USA Gymnastics announced Feb. 26 that the sixth-annual Nastia Liukin Cup would be held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, March 6, 2015. The Nastia Liukin Cup is a debut competition held in conjunction with the AT&T American Cup, and some of the nation's best Junior Olympic female gymnasts will be participating in it. 

Liukin said she had thought nothing could top her 2012 event, which was held at Madison Square Garden, but the 2015 edition could be the best yet.

"I was shocked," Liukin said, "especially because I've competed at American Airlines Arena in Dallas, and to know that it's going to be at [AT&T Stadium] was insane. I've been there for Cowboys games, but I never imagined having my own competition there." 

While she continues to remain involved in gymnastics and establish herself as a TV personality, Liukin said she's made it her priority to finish school within the next two years. 

After that, Liukin said, no matter where life takes her, she knows her dad will be there to support her. 

"I call my dad for advice all of the time," Liukin said. "Obviously, he's not my coach anymore, but I think he will be my coach forever, in terms of just being a life coach. He's the closest person to me. I owe a lot of my life to him, so I'm very grateful that he's still able to help me on a different level now. 

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