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Nastia Liukin stays focused on competing

Olympic star is more concerned with remaining on top of her game than with other endeavors.

March 09, 2009|Diane Pucin

Nastia Liukin was speaking by telephone from Mexico, where she was participating in a gymnastics exhibition with Joey Hagerty of the U.S. Olympic men's bronze-medal-winning team.

Liukin, the Olympic gymnastics star whose graceful, light artistry was the highlight of her all-around gold medal-winning routines, has been to three U.S. team training camps at the Texas ranch of Martha and Bela Karolyi since Beijing.

Like Shawn Johnson, her American teammate and all-around medal rival, Liukin was offered, according to her agent Evan Morgenstein, a chance to appear on "Dancing With the Stars," which begins tonight. Johnson is on the show. Liukin is not.

For Liukin, 19, her goals for now remain gymnastics oriented. Her tentative plans are to qualify for the U.S. national championships in Dallas this summer and likely for the world championships in London next fall.

There is no team competition at the world championships this year, only individual events, and Liukin, whose father and coach Valeri was an Olympian and mother Anna a world championships competitor, has a family appreciation of gymnastics records.

Liukin is tied with Shannon Miller with nine world championship medals, most by an American.

"I don't do gymnastics for the medals," Liukin said, "but I do love to compete and that's something I get from my mom and dad and I think they keep an eye on history."

Miller also has a combined 16 world and Olympic medals. Liukin's combined total is 14 after her five Olympic medals in Beijing. But for the 19-year-old who is also taking some college courses while fulfilling duties for new sponsors such as Vanilla Star Jeans, BCBGMaxAzria and Covergirl makeup, competition is still in her blood.

"I love doing everything I've gotten to do," Liukin said. "I got to act a little on 'Gossip Girl,' I've gotten a chance to do modeling work, it's just been a lot of amazing opportunities. But I was really excited to get back in the gym too. I'm working on new routines and I think I have some good gymnastics left in me.

"It's just a matter of figuring out how to do everything."

Liukin said she considered the opportunity to be on "Dancing With the Stars" but realized that if she did the show now there would not be the chance to compete in the major gymnastics meets of 2009.

"It wasn't doable," she said. Liukin also noted that two participants scheduled to be on this season's show have already been injured and that beach volleyball Olympic gold medalist Misty May-Treanor was injured during last fall's show.

Morgenstein said Liukin is taking seriously the balancing of her sport and outside opportunities.

"Her family is all about competition," Morgenstein said. "I think they feel the pull of history and records. So does Nastia. But she sees all the other opportunities too.

"We have a balancing act as long as she wants to compete."

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diane.pucin@latimes.com

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