Liukin became a member of the U.S. junior national team when she was 12 years old and won the National all-around title at the age of 13. She was the all-around silver medalist at the 2003 Pan American Games. Since 2005, Liukin has been a key member of the U.S. senior team. She is a four-time all-around U.S. National Champion, winning twice as a junior and twice as a senior. She has been the U.S. senior National Champion on the uneven bars since 2005. Liukin has represented the United States at three World Championships, the 2003 and 2007 Pan American Games, and the 2006 and 2008 Pacific Rim Championships. In October 2011, Liukin announced that she was returning to the sport of gymnastics with the hopes of making the 2012 Olympic team. After an unsuccessful National Championships and Olympic Trials, she retired from the sport.
Liukin is the only child of two former Soviet champion gymnasts: 1988 Summer Olympics gold medalist Valeri Liukin and 1987 World Clubs Champion in rhythmic gymnastics Anna Kotchneva. Her nickname Nastia is a Russian diminutive for Anastasia.
The family moved to the United States when Liukin was two and a half years old, after the breakup of the Soviet Union, and settled first in New Orleans before moving to Texas. In 1994, Valeri Liukin teamed with another former Soviet champion athlete, Evgeny Marchenko, to open the World Olympic Gymnastics Academy (WOGA) in Plano. She began gymnastics after spending time in the gym while her parents coached. Liukin was coached by her father during her career.
Liukin is fluent in English and Russian. She graduated from Spring Creek Academy, located in Plano, Texas, in the spring of 2007. She had enrolled as a freshman international business major at Southern Methodist University in January 2008, but took a leave from classes to concentrate on preparations for the 2008 Olympic Games. She returned to campus in Spring 2009, but her travel schedule and professional commitments caused her to withdraw before the end of the semester. She attended New York University after the 2012 Olympics. Nastia's signature color is pink, hence her pink leotard worn during the 2008 Beijing Olympics All-Around competition.
Liukin began gymnastics at the age of three because she was "always hanging around in the gym" with her parents, who could not afford a babysitter to look after her while they were working as coaches. Liukin's parents initially did not aspire for their daughter to become a gymnast, knowing the pressure of high-level competition firsthand, but relented when they noticed her aptitude for the sport.
Liukin competed in her first National Championships as a junior in 2002, at the age of 12½. In contrast to her WOGA teammates Carly Patterson and Hollie Vise who finished first and second respectively, Liukin suffered a fall on the uneven bars which rendered her unable to finish the routine. She continued through the rest of the competition, and despite the incomplete bars set, finished 15th, which landed her one of the final spots on the U.S. National Team. She was chosen to compete with the U.S. team at the 2002 Junior Pan American Championships, where she contributed to the team gold medal and placed second on the uneven bars, balance beam and all-around.
By 2003, Liukin was one of the strongest junior gymnasts in the United States. She won the junior division of the U.S. National Championships, as well as gold medals on three of the four events: uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise. She repeated these accomplishments in 2004. Liukin was a member of the gold-medal winning U.S. team at the 2003 Pan Am Games; she took second place in the all-around behind fellow American Chellsie Memmel. She also won the all-around in the junior division of the 2004 Pacific Alliance Championships.
Born in 1989, Liukin was ten months too young to compete as a senior in 2004, and thus was not eligible for a place on the U.S. team for the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Her scores in the junior division at the 2004 U.S. National Championships were competitive with those being posted by the seniors, and Marta Karolyi, U.S. National Team Coordinator, has said that if Liukin had been eligible, she would have been named to the Olympic team.
In 2005, Liukin won her first senior National Championships and, once again, earned gold medals on the bars and beam. At the 2005 World Championships in Melbourne she finished second in the AA behind teammate Chellsie Memmel with a score of 37.822.
In event finals she won the gold on the uneven bars and balance beam, and the silver on the floor exercise.
In March 2006, Liukin placed first in the all-around at the American Cup. At the 2006 Pacific Alliance Championships, Liukin tied with teammate Memmel for first in the all-around, won the uneven bars title and a silver medal on beam, and contributed to the U.S. team's gold medal performance. She competed at the 2006 U.S. Classic as the defending all-around champion, but falls on the uneven bars and floor resulted in a fourth-place finish. However, she scored extremely well on the balance beam, and was the only competitor in the meet, junior or senior, to earn a score over 16.00 on this event.
In late August, at the 2006 U.S. National Championships, Liukin successfully defended her all-around, beam and bars titles, becoming a two-time senior National Champion. She was named to the U.S. team for the 2006 World Gymnastics Championships in Aarhus, Denmark, and was expected by many to be a strong contender for the all-around title. However, due to an ankle injury sustained in training before the competition began, she was only able to compete on one event, the uneven bars. In spite of her injury, in the qualification round, Liukin's bars set earned a 16.2, the highest score of any competitor on any apparatus in the meet. Her bars routine in team finals scored a 15.7 and helped the U.S. team win the silver medal. Liukin also qualified for the event finals on bars, where she took a small step on her dismount and finished with a 16.05, earning a silver medal behind Britain's Beth Tweddle.
Liukin's ankle injury required surgery, and the recovery period kept her out of both national and international competition for much of the year. In July 2007, although she was still recovering from her injury, she returned to competition as a member of the American team for the Pan Am Games in Rio de Janeiro. She competed only on bars and beam, contributing to the team's gold medal finish and winning an individual silver medal in the uneven bars finals and an individual silver medal on the balance beam final.
Despite limited training time on floor and vault in the summer of 2007, Liukin opted to compete all-around at the 2007 U.S. National Championships. She posted the highest score of the entire meet on bars and the second highest score on beam on the second day of competition, winning the senior bars title for the third year in a row and placing second on beam. However, she also suffered several falls and errors on floor and vault, and finished in third place overall, more than five points behind Shawn Johnson, the all-around gold medalist.
Following Nationals, Liukin was named to the American team for the World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, competing all-around in the team qualifying round and in on bars and beam in the finals. Liukin's score for her bars routine in team finals was a 16.375, the highest score of the day and, in the end, the entire World Championships. However, at the end of her beam routine, her foot slipped while she was setting up her dismount, prompting her to change her usual skill, a two and a half twisting salto, to a simple back tuck. While she lost credit for her dismount, she also avoided a deduction for a fall, and earned a 15.175. The team recovered from this and other mistakes to finish first overall with 184.400, nearly a point ahead of the silver medal Chinese.
Liukin's struggles with the balance beam continued in the all-around final, where she fell from the apparatus during her flight series. In spite of a 16.100 on bars, the highest score of the day from any competitor on any event, she finished the competition in fifth place. In the event finals, however, Liukin rallied and regained her World Champion title on the balance beam with a score of 16.025. She also earned a silver on the uneven bars, scoring a 16.300 after taking a step on her dismount.
Liukin's first meet of the 2008 season was the American Cup in New York City, where she defeated 2007 winner Shawn Johnson to regain her title. She posted the highest score of the meet, a 16.600 on the uneven bars. In March, Liukin competed at the Pacific Rim (formerly Pacific Alliance) Championships in San Jose, where she led the American team to a gold medal and won the all-around and balance beam titles. In the team competition, Liukin posted an all-time high score of 16.650 on the uneven bars, but in event finals, she fell on her Gienger release move and took a step on her dismount, earning a 15.225 and taking second place.
At the 2008 U.S. National Championships in Boston, Liukin fell on floor on her double front tuck the first day of competition, but had a strong meet on her other events and placed second in the all-around behind Shawn Johnson. She regained her National Champion title on the beam and defended her national title on the uneven bars for the fourth consecutive year, scoring a 17.050 in preliminaries and a 17.100 in finals, the highest recorded score for any American gymnast at any event since the advent of the new Code of Points. In June, Liukin competed in the U.S. Olympic Trials in Philadelphia, finishing second behind Johnson, and earning a berth on the American team for Beijing.
Liukin performed all-around in the qualifying round of competition. She qualified to the all-around final with a score of 62.375, which ranked her second among all competitors and 0.35 points behind Shawn Johnson, her friend and Olympic roommate. Liukin also qualified to three event finals: beam, uneven bars and floor exercise; more than any other American competitor.
In the team finals, Liukin performed on three events: beam, bars and floor exercise. Her uneven bars score of 16.900 was the highest mark awarded in the entire Olympic competition. The American team earned the silver medal, 2.375 points behind China.
On August 15, Liukin performed clean routines on all four events (sticking her landings on 3 out of 4 events) to win the all-around gold medal with a final score of 63.325. Shawn Johnson took the silver medal with a score of 62.725. The win marked the third time that an American woman had won the Olympic all-around title; Mary Lou Retton and Carly Patterson were the two previous American gold medalists. It was also the fourth time in the history of the Games that two athletes from the same country have taken first and second place in the women's all-around. The last time this was accomplished was the 2000 Olympics, when Romanian gymnasts won gold and silver; Soviet gymnasts also won gold and silver all-around medals at the 1952 and 1960 Games.
In the event finals, Liukin displayed a beautiful routine to earn a surprising bronze medal on floor exercise with the score of 15.425, behind teammate Shawn Johnson with 15.500, and Romanian Sandra Izbasa with 15.650. On uneven bars, Liukin and China's He Kexin both posted final marks of 16.725, and earned identical A and B-panel scores of 7.70 and 9.025, respectively. However, He Kexin won the gold medal, and Liukin was awarded the silver, after a tie-breaking calculation that took into account individual marks given by judges on the B-panel. In the balance beam final, Liukin scored 16.025 to claim silver behind Shawn Johnson's 16.225. With her fifth Beijing medal, Liukin tied Mary Lou Retton and Shannon Miller for the most gymnastics medals won by an American in a single Olympic Games.
Following her success in Beijing, Liukin was named the USOC Female Athlete of the Month (August) and ultimately USOC Co-Sportswoman of the Year alongside swimmer Natalie Coughlin, the Women's Sports Foundation Individual Sportswoman of the Year, FIG Athlete of the Year and USAG Sportswoman of the Year. In addition she was ranked third in the Associated Press' 2008 Female Athlete of the Year voting.
In March 2009 Liukin was announced as one of 12 semifinalists for the AAU Sullivan Award. The annual award honors the athlete who best represents "the qualities of leadership, character, sportsmanship, and the ideals of amateurism". On April 15, 2009, Liukin's Olympic teammate Shawn Johnson won the AAU Sullivan Award.
Liukin decided that she was not done with gymnastics and made her first post-Olympics competitive appearance at the CoverGirl Classic, where she competed only on balance beam. She placed 2nd behind teammate Ivana Hong. Liukin thought about competing uneven bars and beam at the U.S. Championships, but decided to once again just perform on beam. She placed 4th and looked on track to possibly make a fourth World Championships team. Liukin was added to the National Team and included in the World Championships selection camp. However, she pulled out of Worlds selection consideration because she felt that she was not quite up to World Championships standards.
In October, Liukin announced she would be making a comeback and try for a second Olympic games. Since this announcement, she has posted several videos of her training at WOGA.
In April, it was announced that Liukin had backed out of the national team training camp.
Liukin's first competition of 2012 was the Secret US Classic in May She only competed on balance beam, where she had a clean routine and tied for third with Sarah Finnegan. She petitioned into the National Championships after the Classic.
Liukin competed at the 2012 Visa Championships, where she only did balance beam and uneven bars. On the first day, she had trouble on uneven bars after a form break on one of her pirouettes, transitioning too close to the low bar on her Pak salto and resulting in a bigger form break, and only doing a simple front layout dismount instead of her usual double front half out. However, she rallied on balance beam and scored a 15.1. On day two, she had two rough routines on both bars and beam (where she had to touch the beam to keep herself from falling), but still managed to successfully petition into the Olympic trials. She placed sixth on balance beam, and nineteenth on uneven bars.
At the Olympic Trials, Liukin fell on bars on both days of competition. On her second day, she had an excellent beam routine so that even though her dreams of a second Olympics were dashed, she still went out on a high note. The crowd gave her beam routine a standing ovation.
The following day, Liukin announced her retirement from gymnastics.
Liukin participated in the Kellogg's Tour of Gymnastics Champions from September 8 to November 18. She took Kyla Ross' place on the Olympic rings when Ross briefly left the tour to go back to school.
Liukin has since become a gymnastics commentator for NBC, replacing Elfi Schlegel to provide commentary for events such as the American Cup and National Championships.
At the 2013 National Championships in August, Liukin was inducted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame with the rest of the 2007 World Championship team.
2001-2003 - "Rondo Capriccioso" by Camille Saint-Saens
2006-2008 - "Variations on Dark Eyes" by Lara St. John