The Berkeley Forum hosted gymnast and five-time Olympic medalist Nastia Liukin on Monday, where she spoke on the successes — and failures — that define who she is today.
An International Gymnastics Hall of Fame inductee, NBC commentator and entrepreneur, Liukin has made a name for herself both on and off the mat. The child of award-winning gymnasts, Liukin said she was born with gymnastics in her blood. Despite any potential pressure this invited for her to follow in their footsteps, Liukin noted that her parents never pushed her to be a gymnast.
Instead, it was something she “fell in love with” all on her own.
“Their whole thing, I guess, for me was really just to find something that I loved — find something that I had a passion for,” Liukin said during the event. “That was gymnastics ever since I can remember.”
Liukin said her parents were instrumental in her success, adding that they referred to themselves as “team Liukin.” As her career-long coach, Liukin’s father created a unique conditioning program for her that catered specifically to her body type and ability.
Liukin reminisced on times when, after a bad training day, she confronted her mother about quitting gymnastics. Her response was always to wait to quit until she had a good day – at which point any such considerations had long diminished.
“Even to this day, in business and work, every kind of angle of my life, I think about that,” Liukin said at the event. “You can never quit or give up on a bad day.”
Gymnastics taught Liukin much more than flipping on a four-inch-wide beam, she said. The lessons she gathered as a professional athlete, such as stress control and time management, prepared her for many of life’s tougher moments.
Liukin added that the defining moment of her career occurred amid one of her greatest failures. Hoping to make her second Olympic team, Liukin competed in the 2012 Olympic Trials only to fall in the middle of the uneven bar event, which she is distinctly known for, effectively ending her gymnastics career.
To her confusion, Liukin said she received a standing ovation from the crowd.
“It just made me realize that we will never be defined by our accomplishments, whether we win or lose,” Liukin said during the event. “I feel like it took that face-plant for me to kind of realize that, and the second that I did, it was like my entire life kind of just shifted.”
Liukin said she went on to attend New York University, or NYU, where she filled her time studying sports management and exploring various other passions over the years that proved to be some of the best of her life.
Liukin added that her time at NYU provided her the space to determine who she wanted to be in life.
“(NYU) also was the perfect transition into just figuring out who just Nastia was — not Nastia, the Olympic gold medalist, or the gymnast or any of those things,” Liukin said at the event. “Rediscovering myself, it was exactly what I needed.”