When you want to learn to do something well, it’s not a bad idea to get training and advice from an expert. That was the case July 12 when Wateree Gymnastics Center in Camden welcomed Olympic gold medalist and former world champion gymnast Nastia Liukin to lead a day-long seminar and training session for young girls. She won a gold medal, three silvers and a bronze at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China, putting her in a three-way tie with Mary Lou Retton and Shannon Miller for the most medals received by a gymnast at a single Olympic Games. She retired from competition after Beijing.
Liukin, now 24, was born in Russia to champion gymnast parents, Valeri and Anna Liukin. Her father won four medals, including two golds, at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. Her mother won the 1987 world championship in rhythmic gymnastics. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, the family moved to the United States. With her parents teaching and coaching gymnastics, Liukin was exposed to the sport daily from infancy and began competing at age 6. She now lives in New York City and is a student at New York University majoring in sports management. She also travels the country sharing her knowledge and experience with young gymnasts, as she did in Camden.
“I do a lot of different summer camps. This one is a little bit different because I’m able to spend more one-on-one time with everybody, so it’s really great. A lot of the camps I do, there’s 200 to 500 people, so doing something like this is great because I can spend more time with the kids and have time with every single kid,” Liukin said. “I do these mostly in the summer because I’m a student. This week I had two (camps). Last week I had two, as well. I do six or seven a summer.”
Liukin said she enjoys teaching her sport, but also enjoys answering questions from the girls about other topics, as well.
“I basically stay on the balance beam rotation the whole time. That was my best event and specialty. But, it’s not just gymnastics. If they have questions about other things I like to be able to share my advice and the things I’ve learned along my 20-year career in gymnastics,” she said. “I get some unusual questions sometimes, but I haven’t here. I’m excited to be here. It’s my second time here. I was here last summer and really enjoyed it. It’s a great gym with great people. I really like South Carolina a lot.”
Wateree Gymnastics Center owner Jennifer Piasecki said having Liukin visit the center is a special treat for the children who take classes there.
“We love having her come here, since she’s an accomplished gymnast and world champion. For the kids, she’s such a great role model,” Piasecki said. “They learn so many things from her, and it’s not just gymnastics. They learn focus and balance and overcoming hardship and pushing through hard times and looking at what you can achieve. By showing that, it’s a great example for the children.”