Nastia Liukin’s bid for her second consecutive spot on the Olympic gymnastics team — and her career in the sport — came to an abrupt end, an abrupt, face-first end on the mat beneath the uneven bars.
Liukin, the 2008 individual all-around gold medalist, was trying to become the first Olympic gymnastics champion to return to the following Games since Nadia Comaneci in 1980. Instead, she ended up 10th on the bars and seventh on the beam during Olympic trials over the weekend in San Jose. After falling, she was helped to her feet by her father/coach and finished her routine, getting a sub-par score of 13.950 in the event in which she was a silver medalist in Beijing.
Although embarrassed, Liukin was unhurt in the fall and will attend the London Games as an athlete representative for the Federation of International Gymnasts. In January, she’ll begin taking classes at NYU.
For Liukin, who will turn 23 in October, it was clear that the window was closing on her competitive career. “It was an emotional but amazing way to end my career,” Liukin said on NBC. “I understand that my time is up and I'm so excited to cheer these girls on.”
Later, she tweeted a thank-you that ensures that her exit is remembered only for its grace.
Thank you to the 18,000 people that gave me a standing ovation tonight. I will remember this moment for the rest of my life.— Nastia Liukin (@NastiaLiukin) July 2, 2012