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You try to share, like, what makes you real, you know, and it's not just those moments, those fairy tale moments of winning a gold medal, but it's the days where you want to quit and you don't want to go to training or it's snowing outside or whatever, whatever it is. And you push yourself through those moments and you know it's worth it.
Welcome to the Just Sports podcast, where we talk to the biggest athletes in the world about the untold stories behind their success. I'm Kelly O'Hara and my guest today is Nastia Liukin. Nastia Liukin is the definition of a gymnastics legend at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. She won five Olympic medals, including gold in the individual all around. Nastia also won four world championship golds in her career and was a four time all around us national champion, winning twice as a junior and twice as a senior altogether.
Nastia one thirty two international medals, including 15 gold in her gymnastics career. Nastia, welcome to the show. Thank you for having me.
Well, I'm stoked because you are our first gymnast to come on to the pod and you have more medals than I can keep track of from Olympics and world championships and national championships. And while I my most advanced move I can do as a gymnast is a round off, which I'm pretty proud of, and that is.
Yeah, a good gymnast.
USA Gymnastics was like my first intro to female athletes truly from like the 1996 Olympics.
So I feel like you were that for so many girls, you know, because sometimes, like for me, I didn't even know I played soccer. I wasn't even a gymnast. But USA gymnastics is like a frickin cool. So I'm stoked to talk to you about that. And then I'm also excited cause your first athlete who is retired and you've moved on from the sport and you have that perspective of like what happens next and who am I? And that's her thing, which I'm really excited and interested to talk to you about today.
But before we get to that, we're going to go back to the beginning, because your story, your beginning is crazy. You're born in Moscow, Russia.
I was so yeah, both my parents were gymnasts. So as the only child gymnastics definitely was just like in my blood and in my genes. But they competed at the Olympics in the world championships. So they knew how difficult the sport was and really any professional sport at that level. And so for me, we moved to the United States when I was about two and a half years old.
OK, and how did that move come about? Because I read your dad was on the 1987 Soviet stamp. Yeah, that's true.
Yeah, which is crazy. I know. So yeah. So he can be at the eighty eight games the year after that one to go and two silver medals and and so I was born in a few years after that. And for them they really two reasons. Basically they wanted to give me the best possible life that they could, but also they had a dream and their dream was to open up the gymnastics school one day and coach their own athletes to be coming.
Hopefully, world and Olympic champions never imagined to be their own daughter ever, but they weren't able to do that in Russia. You know, it was everything was very government run. I'm not really sure what it's like now, but they didn't have the freedom to open up their own gymnastics club. And so they were like, you know what, like we're going to do this. And so we moved from Moscow to New Orleans the week of Mardi Gras.
Oh, I know. Yeah. My parents were like, oh, my God, what are you doing in this country?
They spoke no English, really had no money, just a baby and a dream. And we stayed there about nine months. And then, you know, funny, you bring up Atlanta, but it was right before the ninety six games. And so, you know, obviously with any Olympic sport, but especially I think gymnastics around the Olympics, like every little kid that watches it like looks and they're like, I want to do that. So the popularity with the sport definitely is is always at a high around an Olympic year.
So they were trying to decide if they wanted to open up their own gym in Atlanta, given the ninety six games or Texas. And Houston was a hot, hot spot for gymnastics at the time. And it was kind of like migrating towards Dallas and no idea. They just decided, like, we're going to go with Dallas and. Yeah, and so we ended up in Dallas and I grew up here and lived here all the way up until and trained obviously all the way up until I went to school in New York and now I'm back here.
So it's it's great to be home. But basically, like, the beginning was just them trying to convince me to not pass.
Yeah, I was.
So, yeah, you get to Dallas, they they I assume, open their own gym. Yes, they did. It took you know, took some time, probably at least a year I would say.
OK, and you're how old at that point. Gosh I don't know.
I'm getting my timeline wrong. You're young, you're a little five. I'm young like I'm young where it's like, you know, you can just let your child just do what they want kind of and like, run around. But it's not like we're putting you in this. And they couldn't afford a babysitter every it was like penny to penny everything went into this gym and like trying to start this business and. Well and so then all of a sudden, so I spent all my time at the gym when I wasn't going to preschool, kindergarten in school.
And they just started noticing that I would start trying to copy the older girls. And they were like, oh, shoot. Like, she's actually like really good. She knows what she's doing and no one's even teaching her like, OK, fine, we'll put her into first it was classes, then pre DM the team. And then it was just they tried so hard. My my mom's biggest thing was she made me take piano lessons and I cried every single week.
I had to go and I was like I could be like during the lessons or before, like before, during and after. Like I hate this. I never want to do this like and the. My teacher was just not my favorite, and so she made me go for a few months, then I was like, I'm never going to play the end, like so much respect for musicians, but it was just not for me. Like, I just wanted to be in the gym and my mom was my first coach.
It did not go that well. She was she's very much like the most amazing person, but just like almost like too nice. Like if I say like you saying, yes, I was like, oh, I'm tired. OK, honey, like, go sit down. And my dad was just like, OK, like, well if you're going to do it, like, you know, why are you telling. Well yeah.
And but he wanted nothing to do with it. He was like, I want just my relationship with like a father daughter relationship. And then I had this. OK, so I have. So your parents are coaching other people though, correct? Oh yeah. Yeah. We had like a bunch of other coaches at the gym. My mom, it was just kind of it was never like, oh, your mom's the best coach, she's going to coach you.
It was like, you know, it was kind of by age and level. And she happened to be coaching my group, I guess, all the time. And I had this other male coach and great like a family friend still to this day. But I slipped. I was doing a release move and I slipped on the bar and I got a black eye. And my dad, my dad literally was like, if you're doing gymnastics, I'm going to be the only one to coach you and spot you.
I don't trust anyone. And it's not that he didn't even trust that person because he still coaches that, are you? But it was just like this like freak moment of him being a dad.
And he was like, you know, gymnastics is such a dangerous sport. I don't trust anyone. And if you're actually going to do this, like I want to coach you, not because he was like, I want a gold medal at the Olympics, like, I think I'm going to be your best coach. But that's how it started. And it was like it was a fatherly instinct that took over.
But maybe hundred percent. Yeah, it was it was totally a safety thing. And I think they really, really were hoping that I wasn't going to be good and. Oh, for sure. Yeah. I mean, why they just didn't because they knew, like so many things, the pressure. Yeah. And then, like, you know, they were world and Olympic champions and I'm the only child and now they're coaching me. And so it's like pressure on me.
Like I never felt the pressure because when you're a kid, you know, you just do it's fun. Like you don't think about any of those things. I honestly didn't think. Of kind of like I never felt that pressure until the Olympic trials when someone was like, so like, don't you feel a lot of pressure to live up to the expectations of what your dad achieved at the Olympics to golden two silver medals? And I was like, whoa.
I was like, I haven't even made the Olympic team yet, you know?
And that was you you didn't like you didn't even think of those expectations until you were like on the brink of being in it.
I thought it was just so cool that my dad and mom had both done what I wanted to do. I thought of it more as like, this is so cool. My parents are world Olympic champions. That's what I want to do. Like how cool.
And I think the other thing that was really great and I didn't realize this growing up until I was older, but if you were to walk into their house and like none of our medals are anywhere, like his four Olympic medals were rolled up in some little bag in the basement, like I didn't see them until I think I had to ask to see them. Do you remember any like, big blow ups are like huge fights, or did it always just remain professional?
In a way.
I mean, at the end of the day, they always told me, like, you can quit. And it's like we're we're just trying to help you achieve your goals. You know, like this isn't for us. Like, this is for you. We've already done. We kind of wanted to do. We did. Yeah, we did it. So good luck. You know, I'm just kidding.
So I think for them it really was just them since day one, you know, finding your biggest passion and something that makes you so happy and feel fulfilled and something that you love. And I'm like, yes, the days are going to be hard. Like we all be lying as athletes. If we said it was just like amazing every single day.
And like, you don't wake up every other day being so sore and tired and whatever, but but I think, you know, at the end of the day, we do it because we love it and we're passionate about it. And so I think that was their biggest goal was for me to find what that was. So whether it was gymnastics or playing the piano, like whatever that was for me, they felt like they they were happy to see me happy, essentially.
And so and I think that's also why it was so hard, even harder for them to see me go through hard times and injuries and obstacles and times where I was frustrated or whatever. And my mom was she stopped coaching me after I was like five or six year old. I was.
But she was as much part of the team as my dad was as a coach, like she was our support system and our rock. And it was just as hard for her to have an upset child in an upset or angry husband come what? I mean, it was like the dynamic sometimes. Yeah, it was tough. So like, God bless her because she held us together during those tough times. But ultimately, you guys were all like wanting the same thing, you know.
So regardless of getting into fights or upset with each other, you're working towards one goal. Yeah.
At what point did you her age, did you realize or they realize maybe both that you had the potential to be who you ended up being?
That's so hard to say, I think. Well, I think from the very beginning, I was always so my mom was a rhythmic gymnast. So should you explain that to her? I can't. Yes. So basically, there's two types of gymnastics. Artistic gymnastics is which my dad and I both did that. So for the girls, it's the vault bars, Beamon floor for guys, they're six events. And so rhythmic gymnastics is basically it's an Olympic sport, but it is more artistic and graceful and like more like kind of dance like.
So it's you're just on the floor and you have like the hoop, the ribbon, the ball. Yeah. OK, yeah. So that's what she did. So but like they're like extremely flexible and graceful and like mostly it's like if you're an artistic gymnast you're like powerful, kind of shorter, muscular and can like tumble and like flip and all that. And then if you're a rhythmic gymnast, you're a little taller, skinnier, longer, and you're just super flexible.
So, yeah, of course. Yeah. So I of course, had her body type. And so I think people are also like, why should she be doing the other gymnastic? Like she's never going to be able to tumble. And so I think early on, you know, doubter's is like from the very beginning, we're just like, OK, great. She's really good on, you know, she's very flexible and graceful and artistic and she's got ten bars and beam the two events that don't require as much strength.
But vault and tumbling were never really my strong events because I lacked that power. Like no matter how much conditioning I did, I was never going to be as strong as, you know. So my Olympic teammates like Sean and Alicia and like they just we had different body types. We had different strengths. And so I think it was really tough. I think it wasn't really until I made the junior national team when I was twelve. So I think at twelve, you know, the next step is basically.
Senior national team and so just a few years away, and it was kind of like, OK, you know, like you're still far from the Olympics, but you've made the junior national team at least. And I started competing internationally. And so you start with claim. Can you explain what the junior national team means? Because like for soccer, we go to Canada and we sometimes play international games. But so there's the junior and then the senior.
So kind of walk us through that because I don't fully understand it. Yeah. So basically, we have a national championships, there's a qualifier nationalism and then our nationals. And and every year it kind of changed depending on Olympic gear, the amount of people that make the national team. I think there was like a few more, but like, say, like the top 10 to 15 juniors make national team and then in the senior competition, same amount of people or maybe less, maybe more, depending on the air.
And but basically every single month we would go to training camps together. So it's one national team, essentially. And so, yeah, we would have camps every single month. So it was kind of cool because, you know, I wasn't old enough for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, but I was going to camps alongside essentially the Olympic team. So you got to see them train. And then some of my teammates at my parents gym here, Carly Patterson, actually won the gold medal at the Olympics in 2004.
And she was my teammate here. And and so that was really cool to kind of go through and like, see, I'm like, OK, well, she trained on that same beam and she did the same things. And and before her, it was Mary Lou Retton, which was 20 years before an American, an American gymnast had won. So so she kind of like set that bar to make American gymnasts believe, again, like that we could be competing with the Russians and the Romanians and the Chinese and for sure.
So, yeah. So so anyways, sorry, backtracking to the national team. So once you make the national team, you can compete internationally, but you have to be selected. OK, and to make the national team. How do you pick for that? There's a club world of gymnastics, I assume you call it, where you're competing. And do the coaches see you and that you get invited or do you, like, go through a trial to make the junior team?
Yeah. So it's basically a it's a step by step process. So you have to so the levels are like one through ten and then elite. And once you and you have to like to qualify to elite, you have to go to an elite qualifier and get a certain score basically. And then once you're an elite, then it's by age. So then it's junior, senior by age and you compete at the same national championships. But the rankings are just your total, your total scores and the top, however many make it so.
So you're being judged by the same judges. You know, the rules are the same. It's literally just the age difference. So it kind of is nice, too, because you can take your scores and put them amongst the athletes that are going to the Olympics that year. And so I think that's why in twenty four, like, I wasn't old enough, but looking at the rankings at like trials, technically I could have made the team and and I think that was also when people were like, oh, OK.
Like, yes, she's not old enough. But in four years with experience and, you know, four more years of training, then like she she's on the track I guess.
Yeah. How OK, so how old do you have to be to make the Olympics. What's the sixteen. You have to be turning sixteen by the end like December 31st. So that's something that blows my mind about gymnastics is that and you say, you know, you didn't you were too young to make the 2004 Olympics. And if you probably would have been if you would have known if you more than likely would have made it just based on scores what a lot of your coaches said or the people within US gymnastics.
Yeah, but I would be so mad if I was good enough and couldn't go. Oh, yeah.
It was like I like I think I, I also just knew that it what I don't know.
I knew that I wasn't good enough to win an Olympic all around gold medal like I could have made the team. But you weren't like oh this is going to be peaking. Oh yeah. For sure. Not like I knew I still needed those four years to get better and stronger. And especially like, you know, I was, as I kind of said, like I wasn't powerful and strong. And so I needed those four years to kind of like develop into a strong gymnast, even though I never was.
But I was like, oh, I got.
And also the experience I mean, like, you know, it's like going to your first international court, like you are. So, like you have no idea what is going on. So I competed at three world championships, you know, after the Athens Olympics that I wasn't old enough. So then the next three years, we have worlds every year. And then just being able to compete there, like the experience that I gained competing internationally, really like set me up for the Olympics and to meet.
I guess, but it's just like exhausted. I know, I know, I know, but I know today when I was like preparing for this, I was like you. Gymnast's has such a finite window to go to the Olympics. Like you have maybe maybe one shot, maybe two, if you're lucky, too. Yeah.
And like, really, it's really only the people who are either 15 turning 16 in their first one and then 20 and their second one like end up falling in the like you're like 17, 18. Yeah, yeah. You're kind of like shit out of luck, you know. Well yeah.
So I was I was 18, about to turn 19 and like a month or two and so and that was kind of it's so funny because it's like I commentate now for NBC and now they're like my colleagues. But and they know like I talk about this all the time. But it's like the whole storyline was that, you know, this this we were rivals, Sean and I, like Sean, was kind of the favorite to win. And but we were like kind of going back and forth one, two, all year and mostly her, because I just I was coming back from an injury the year before and that she was like that quote unquote, perfect age, you know, of turning 16 the Olympic year.
And I was about to be 19. And so the whole thing was that I was too old and that I was past my prime and like, yeah, maybe I'd make it, but there was no chance that I was going to win. And. And did you show them? Yeah, it was.
I'm always like, even to this day, like, I still have to remind myself people's words just like always affect me. And so as an athlete. Oh yeah. Like not as much now, but like as an athlete, like when you're you train essentially your whole life and you're in the gym every single day, seven hours a day, six days a week. And my dad was feeling like, OK, that's it. Like you're not allowed.
And thank God there was no social media that and like I didn't have Instagram and Twitter. I think I like Facebook. But he was like, you're not like, yeah, you can give your interviews whatever you need to do, but you're not allowed to read them because it's one thing to say what you're saying. But, you know, like people can twist your words and make it anyway and it can affect you either way, whether it's negative or if it's positive, like sometimes too much confidence.
It's not great, you know. So yeah.
So I think that was probably the best thing that had happened was I just stopped listening to everybody else and started just really focusing on my gymnastics. And I stopped trying to compete against anyone else too. And my dad was was very much a numbers person. So like he would like write things down, like essentially, you know, just gymnastics is a very subjective sport. One judge could like you. The other one just could not want to talk about that.
Oh, my gosh.
Child, to me, I would never play that type or compete in that car just so I have a lot of respect for people do and, you know, do it gracefully because I would it just feels like there's no way that it's ever going to be like, well, it's like, you know, it's so hard to compare it to, like even just in life, whether it's a friend or a relationship or something, trying to convince someone to like you or trying to convince someone to be like, no, really.
Like, you should be my friend or you should pick me.
You know, it's like that's kind of like at some like what it feels like sometimes. I remember at the world, I think it was a year before the Olympics. It was an even bigger finals. And I was like kind of supposed to win. Like I was I was definitely supposed to meddle. And I ended up winning silver, which, by the way, like like I was very proud to win Silver. But I also think that silver in fourth place are the two toughest words to be because you're like, I was so close to winning a gold.
And if you're in fourth, you're like, oh, I was so close to medaling. So I just obviously proud, but it's that they're tough. And so Najai right there, that's just the reality of the situation.
My dad literally like went up to the judge like because all that like it, they're all the same judges like over the years. So it's like everyone knows everyone. And he went up just like a very nice casual conversation, like just wanted to know like what you know, what was it basically. Yeah. Like it was very like it was it was a very subjective kind of like she won like she deserved whatever. And that's literally what the judge said.
I liked her, hurt the other girls, her team better. And my dad, we like to say that I mean, not really, I don't think.
But it was after the competition, he was just like, oh, OK, got it. You know? And so that was, I think, the first time where I was like, oh, this is like not really a fair sport. You know, it's like you can do the best routine that you possibly can. And at the end of the day, it's not up to you. And I think that was the moment where I was like, all right.
Like, I have to stop worrying about. The outcome, because it's so out of your control, like you can do the best possible routine and still not win, you know, so it's like as long as you can. And it sounds like so cliche, but it's like as long as you can end your day knowing that you tried your best and in your heart, you know, like there's nothing else you can do. You're like Imelda.
And if they don't like hurting more than mine, I think I can do better.
Yeah. Like, I can't beg. Like, please give me the call. Yeah. So so yeah. It's an interesting sport for sure.
Like. Yeah. Yeah. Props. My mother was a gymnast so I don't know how she was able to do it either because I don't think she passed on her like gracefulness in terms of handling a subjective opinion of mine. So I do have to say I feel like it. It definitely like made my skin pretty thick. Like that's good. But the great thing like silver lining. Yeah. Oh, yeah. So gold lining. Gold lining.
We'll go with gold.
OK, so you you have a fantastic junior career. You make the junior national team or you called your international team at 12, you make the senior team is that you make it when you're sixteen. Yeah. You have to be six so fifteen. Sixteen moving into it. OK, you've got to win some gold, you win maybe a couple of silvers and she misses the 2004 Olympics. But you know, you go and you have these experiences of winning these world championships, which obviously leads you to a place where you were ready for twenty eight.
But going in to twenty eight, you had a pretty serious injury or two thousand seven you did. And it was an ankle injury. So tell me about that, because I also I, I feel you I have had my ankles are not my most favorite body part. Yeah. I do have to say like I to this day I'm so lucky that my dad was my coach in the way that he trained me was just always like, you know, it was always quality over quantity.
And he knew that, especially the body type. And I had like I couldn't handle the amount of like pounding and repetition that so many other gymnasts could do or athletes in general, just because I was a little bit more frail than I think, you know, some other people. And and so the injury that I had, it was on the trampoline, like I was at training camp, but I wasn't even doing like anything very difficult. Like I was doing a front layout with like a one and a half, like nothing, nothing hard at all.
I went crooked and just rolled my ankle off the mat and three days before we left for World. So that year at Worlds, I traveled in a wheelchair, couldn't walk. Yeah. Luckily we got there like a few weeks before the competition. And so I was still put on the world team for one event. I competed bars, couldn't do my dismount until like the day before I literally couldn't walk.
Oh, my God. You you went to world in a wheelchair? Yeah. What? Literally.
Yeah, I guess Barzeh was always my best event. And if a team looked kind of anywhere that year, it was bars and the alternate I guess they kind of looked at, OK, if we just took Nastia and had her do bars and her potential score would elevate our team score of X amount of points, or if we I think there was like two or three all that's like let's take one of the alternate scores and it's like a puzzle piece.
And so at the end of the day, it was just we can afford to take her for one event in a wheelchair, like not in crowded wheelchair, some resource.
Yeah. And she'll be fine, like tape it up. And that's what I did.
What can I ask you, when you were preparing and you weren't doing the dismount, would you just like do the routine and then slow down like somebody just stop?
My dad had literally done. Yeah. Like I couldn't jump down. I know. I feel like this is like I know it's like sad, but it's funny.
It is for to be loved because it's like, oh no.
But it's like who goes to the world championships and like they can't walk like you don't know. Like that's not. Yeah. It's not normal. I feel like that's about, you know, frickin good that you're you're so good. They're like no, no, no.
But you know, I mean it's like I'm not saying or I'm not encouraging anybody to, to like fight through like that much pain and whatever. And it wasn't no one made me do it. But I was determined and I did not want to miss the world championships. So. Yeah, so that's that's what I did. And then the recovery was just did you get surgery or. No. Yeah, I did. So doing a few dismounts and finally being able to kind of like walk it got a little worse just because the bone chips went like behind my Achilles tendon and and then I just kind of kept reinjuring it.
Like ankles are just, you know, one little like short landing, one like rolling just a little bit with Conn's. Gently so it was it was very challenging the year before the Olympics at our Nationals, we can beat two days in a row. So we have four events, so eight routines. And out of the eight routines, I felt six times. And so now this is the year before the Olympics. So, you know, you're supposed to be like, I'm on my way to being my best ever.
Yeah. Yeah. And I had the worst year, obviously, of my entire career. And so that was kind of when I say, like, people started not believing in me, like they kind of had a reason to, I guess, after that nationals.
But it was also I wasn't prepared. I wasn't I was injured still. I wasn't able to put in the time and all of that. And so so the Nationals came after you had surgery and you had started to rehab, but you were just getting back into it and you went to the competition and weren't at your sharpest. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And so, yeah, it was just it was it was a terrible year. But I also think it was the best thing that kind of could have happened because it's like it just gave me like a little kick in the butt of, you know, all right, this isn't guaranteed.
Yeah. And so I think I like, needed that, like, really slowed down to be able to I remember like the New Year's Eve. Twenty seven. So like right before the 2008 Olympic year, my dad and I were just like, OK, look like no matter what happens, like come the end of August when the Olympics are done, let's, let's just know that we did everything we absolutely could and we have no regrets no matter the outcome.
Right. No matter if you make the Olympic team or not, no matter if you win a gold medal or not, like no matter anything, like, let's just put everything that we absolutely have into this because I don't want either of us to regret anything. Yeah. And so I think that that's literally what we did. And what did that look like for you? Like, do you do you feel like you changed some things beginning up to that?
Yeah, I definitely did. A lot of it was I hate to run, like, absolutely despise it. I think that's like like to this day, I just hate it. In the year like that year, I had to run like, so much just for, you know, I mean, all the good. I'm not going to tell you guys like everyone knows, like why running is so great. But I just I hated it so much and I hated conditioning, like I was just always very weak and.
Yeah, like he would build these, like, contraptions like with like bungees. And I'd have to like these squats. Like there were days where I would wake up and I was like, I can't feel my legs, how am I going to like go do a fourteen or like anything. But it was leading me up to be the strongest, quickest, fastest, best that I ever was in my entire life. And when you're going through that, it is so hard.
But then like and you don't see, like, you know, the end, like the the light at the end of the tunnel. But he obviously saw it. He had been through it. So he knew. And so that's when I just had to put everything aside and kind of trust in his plan and his guidance. And I knew at the end of the day, like it would work, but it was it was hard. Yeah. And I feel like the the hardest things in life are the ones worth doing.
One hundred percent, you know.
And I also think it's like, you know, I was like the toughest on myself. Like no one needed to be like strict or hard on me. Like I just I think my biggest fear in life and in sports, just life in general, business, anything is regret and the fear of having any kind of regret and thinking like I could have done another beam teen. I could have worked a little bit harder. I could have whatever that could have kind of kept me up at night for many years.
And so I just kind of like made a promise to myself. Like whatever you decide to do in any aspect of your life, just give it your all. You know, it's no matter what the outcome is like, it doesn't mean that you have to win an Olympic gold medal in every single area of your life or and that's not what defines you as a person like your success. But I think just knowing that you don't have a regret like that, you can go to sleep at night knowing you gave it your all, no matter the outcome.
I'm curious, what did your day to day look like leading in to the Olympics? Because I feel like a lot of I mean, all sports have their craziness in terms of training. But gymnastics, I feel like it's just another level.
Yeah, well, I graduated high school the year before the Olympics, so that was kind of like the greatest thing because Olympic gear, I was just really able to focus on training and recovery. But before that, I went to public school up until fifth grade and then in fifth grade is when I started training twice a day. So I would train eight to 12 in the morning. Then I'd go to school twelve, thirty to three and then I train again from four to seven, went home so.
So seven hours a day, Sunday was our day off, Saturday we had two 1/2 days, so just eight to 12 lived for Saturday or Saturday after 12. Yeah, yeah. So I always forget, like, how old you are in grade school, but yeah, since fifth grade, basically up until I retired at twenty two, it was intense. Yeah.
So you go into two thousand eight being like this is my year, I'm going to do everything I have to do. You end up making the Olympics. What was that like for you. You made the team and then like heading to Beijing.
So at our Olympic trials, only the top two made it. So Shawn won trials. I got second. So we were named to the team. Then we had a second trials at our training camp. But basically we were told at Olympic trials that even though we like, quote unquote made the team like our spots, we're not guaranteed that we had to basically prove and show readiness at our training camp.
And by the way, like all like I don't know if there's like 12 of us or something. Everyone that went to the final selection camp, we all packed as if we were going to the Olympics and then like six of us went to China from there and then like the rest did not.
So that was that was brutal. So anyways, we didn't really, like, believe it until we were all on a plane. I think we got on the plane and we were like, the door has now been shot.
We were like it wasn't even checking the bags at the airport.
It was, oh, no, not at our house to be shot out like we're like in the air, you know, thirty thousand feet above and I guess off this plane. Yeah. And and then it was like also then you hear like, oh, you're not really officially an Olympian until you compete for the first time.
So then it was two weeks. We got there like two weeks or something to train and get adjusted to the time zones and everything. And that too was just we had our team had multiple injuries and so we were training seven hours a day, seven days a week there. We didn't have a single day off. And so by the time the competition came, we were just like, all right, we need like the adrenaline now because we're exhausted.
Oh, my gosh. So, yeah, it was a lot that people, I guess and you know this, right, as an athlete like but the stuff that people don't see behind closed doors, the training sessions, like they see the fairy tale moments of you, you know, your final routine and the final scores come up and or the game winning goal. And yeah.
And they're just like, that's what I want to do. And you're like, that's great. But much more. Yeah.
And and obviously, like, I'd encourage anybody to be an athlete and whatever, but I think it was just I think it's also in a world we live in a world where we share highlights. Right. Whether it's as athletes, as as just individuals. And social media, I think has a lot to do with that. I'm guilty of it. I think I think everyone to to some degree kind of is. And so I really try to share and before this year, like when I would travel a lot and see young girls or women or kids or whatever, and and you just try to share and not necessarily like just try to share the negative, but you try to share, like, what makes you real, you know.
And it's not just those moments, those fairy tale moments of winning a gold medal, but it's the days where you want to quit and you don't want to go to training or it's snowing outside or whatever, whatever it is. And you push yourself through those moments and, you know, it's worth it. And so I think, like those moments are so important to share because it's like and they're more relatable, you know, it's like falling or failing or any of those things that happen in your life.
Like that's more like who wants to listen to, like you say, how great your life is and you win a gold medal and like, it's amazing.
It's like, yeah, cool. We watch that on TV. That's great. Yeah.
I always say with the World Cup, like even this past summer with World Cup, I kept being like, remember to tell people that this is like really, really hard and like not actually that much fun for the most part.
Like winning is fun, but it is about five.
And like people don't see that, you know. And I think also the older you get in, the more like I think the older you get, obviously the hopefully the smarter you get. And you're just like, oh, whoa, OK, this is not as fun as it was when I was five years old, just like pretending that the bars were monkey bars, you know. But yeah.
Yeah, well, you you make it. They let you on the plane, they shut the door. You envision you train. OK, I remember watching twenty eight and the Olympics and you compete and Shawn Johnson at the time Johnson she's EPM Johnson Johnson is OK.
So but I didn't realize and I guess I kind of remember this, that there was such this media hyped rivalry between the two of you.
But from what I've. Research, you guys are actually rooming together at the time during the Olympics. How did you handle that?
Because that's just like from a soccer player. We compete for a spot to start. But once you're on that team, you're all winning the games. You know, you might not be playing, but like the still the you for everybody, whereas gymnastics, you have your individual events, but then you also have your team event and you're competing against each other for individual medals, but then collectively trying to win a medal together. You're like shaking your head, but it well, because like that that's literally like what it is at the end of the day.
Obviously, the most important thing is like the medal count for Team USA, right? So it's kind of like if you do your best and if you're contributing, you're contributing to that overall medal count. But at the end of the day, there's only one medal that you can win as a team. And then after that. I competed four other times to win an individual medal against in every single one except bars, I guess every single one except for one, I was competing against a teammate.
And so Shawn actually every single time. And so it's like it's so hard. And I think people don't understand. Yeah, we're also so young. So, yeah, maybe I was almost 19, but in my mind, I was not 19 years old and she was almost 16.
But she was not like gymnast, I think, and like no disrespect to gymnast or whatever, but the maturity level, just because, like, we're not living a normal, especially nowadays, but like a normal teenage life where so and then on top of that, you have, you know, what is also so crucial because you're having to deal with like fame and hype and media attention and navigate this whole world as a teenager.
And this was the first time. So, you know, I'm sure everyone knows, but we went one, too. And that was the first time that the US had ever done that. And so one individual individual in the all around and the all around. Yes, the individual all around. Yes. And so but normally there's never two gymnasts that well before that. And like now they're like consecutively. There has been, but it's always been one all around her.
And so it's like not favorite going into any Olympic year. They get the sponsors, they get everything. And so it was very, very divided of, OK, this company signed her, we're going to sign her like no complaining was like, OK, Gatorade signed her power. It's going to sign her. Was it like same categories and then the competitors? Yeah, it was very much like or it would be like an Olympic sponsor that would, you know, are only signing on gymnasts like, you know, a big Olympic sponsor if they only are signing five to ten are under ten people for their whole roster.
They're not going to sign two of the same athletes or two of the same sports so that it didn't really bother us. And I know I'm speaking on behalf of both of us because we have talked about this like so much now. But that's not when it got to us. It was more so after and like we were so we were finding roommates. We were actually really good friends, just that happen to have the same exact goal. And we would just like go to sleep like feet apart, like staring at each other.
And, you know, we both went to sleep early, like we both like to like we just we were so similar yet complete different gymnasts. But compared to all of our other teammates who like they like to like play their music loud and stay up late. And so, like, in the sense of that, like we were like so garaging to really riches of the two.
Oh my God. One hundred percent. We were so scared to get in trouble, like Alicia, who is like one of my best friends now and like love her mom of three, like such an amazing mom. But she was like the rebel of the team and like she like would be blasting her music. And we'd be like, I can't go tell on her because, like, we don't want her to get mad at like it was not like we all joke about it.
But so anyways, it was after the all around competition and that's kind of when everything changed. And I think we both knew, you know, only one person could win and one of us, we were the two favorite. It was either going to be me or her. And so I think after and we also start to compete after that, too. So that was that was challenging. But having to go to sleep and like, we weren't allowed to stay with, like, our parents or family or anything.
Like we had to come back and did the you guys got your you got a gold. She got a silver in individual all around. And then you went to bed in the same room basically. And you feel like as soon as that event was over, as soon as that medal was given out, things change.
I think that it wasn't necessarily like either of us being like we can't be friends anymore. I think, you know, and I've put myself obviously in her position.
And she was like so many times and it was just tough, no matter how old you are, no matter no matter what, like, I'm sure you just want to go cry your eyes out and now you're like basically lying next to the person that beat you.
Yeah. And so I think that it was tough. It was tough on both of us. And I also wasn't going to be like, hey, it's OK. You know, like she didn't want to hear from me. She didn't want to look at me, you know? So it was it was very challenging. We tried really hard, I would say, like we tried our best. We supported each other through the rest of the competition. Basically, we had a few more days left.
She won gold on beam and I won silver. And so I like I to I was like, so happy because she had three silvers up until that. This was her final day of competition, and so as much as being a competitor, as much as I wanted to win, I was just like, she deserves this, you know? And then I think it was just more so after that. It was you know, you have two management teams, right.
And it's like you have like two of the most popular like gymnastics is one of the most popular sports of the games. And and you both come out as Olympic gold medalist and, you know, your rivals and you're such different people. And so then you're just like it felt like the world just started, like pitting us against each other and every single aspect. It was ten times worse than like leading up to the Olympics when it was like, oh, she signed with this person, this company.
And then it started being like she did, you know, Leno. She did Letterman like everything was a competition. Yeah. And it was I never thought about that.
And when you're a teenager, it was awful, like to this day, like and then this was kind of my breaking point of FlashForward, because the funny part is I'm like, oh, you want me to know you?
You guys seem like the best of friends.
Well, I'm like a mother to child now, so it's like, yeah, it's crazy.
Like thinking back all these years. The moment for me that it hit me and again, nothing happened just then, just like, you know, and it just fizzles and then it's been too long. And then you're just like, I don't even know what to say. Like we'd obviously run into each other sometimes at events. And it was just the fake.
Hi. Hi. How are you. OK, bye.
And so that was even worse. And we were engaged at the same time and people started basically saying, this is bride wars too. And they started like, yeah, making our wedding is like a competition. Now, I you know, obviously I did not get married. Our engagement ended. Sean ended up getting married. And I remember I was in New York, I had moved to New York after I retired and I was going to school. I was having an interview with The New York Times.
And he was like, So Sean's getting married soon. And I was like, Huh? And he's like, So are you going to go? And I'm like, I'm like, I'm not invited. Like, I haven't talked to her in eight years. And I'm like, but what do I say? Like, I can't like nobody. OK, that's interesting.
Yeah. And so I was like, you know, I'm not sure. Yeah. Like my schedule's a little busy like. Also like what. Like if you're actually friends like who says that. And he goes OK, like I don't know, I'm sure he picked up on it, I don't know. And he like excused himself to go to the bathroom and I like opened my phone and I have this long email from her and it's her apologizing. Like, I have no idea what happened.
I cannot believe it's been eight years. I miss you. Like, it hurts me so much that, you know, we were like the best of friends. We went through so much together. I'm engaged and about to get married. And it makes me so sad that, like, you know, we're not in each other's lives. I understand if you don't want to talk, but, like, I got a new number. I'm sure you got a new number.
I know you're in New York. I'm actually coming next week for work. It would mean so much like Mike if I could.
I know. And I was just like asked about it, literally, like she was in the bathroom.
And I'm like, so about that, like I might, but I think I'm just kidding. I think I might.
So I was like and at the time it was just I literally replied like and I think he came I was like, sorry, I just I just need to like some this real quick. And I was like, hi. And then I started typing this long thing, but she had sent me her number. So then I just texted her and I was like I was like, it's nasty and like this whole thing. And I was like, I would love to see you.
Like, when are you coming? A And so we saw each other. We had brunch at the at the Bowery Hotel. Like, I still remember this moment like so clearly.
And we both started like she walked and I started crying and it was just like it just made I think us realize, like so many different things, but also like we couldn't believe that we basically let the world, you know, ruin something that was like so special for no reason. There wasn't really a like no one did anything to each other, like there wasn't.
Anyways, long story short, she invited me and my ex and I at the time we went and we met and drew her husband there and. Yeah. Now has she has a little baby Drew and that's a godmother and it's just so special. Yeah.
Well that makes me so happy that, you know, you guys are in a good place now and that's that's all that matters. And that's what I feel like. Life man. Yeah. It's really cool.
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You can get the boot strap 3.0 for free and access to its app so you can know yourself and perform at your best. Check out Woop, woop, dotcom and use the code Jaquie at checkout to save 15 percent. Well, I do want to talk a little bit about obviously, there was like some sad parts of maybe winning gold, but when you won, like how what was that moment like for you individually, for you and your father together?
It's just that is like the quintessential Olympic moment.
You know, it's just so crazy.
It really is, I think, like going back to that moment. And seeing my score again, because the sport is so judgmental, like as soon as I had finished, I knew going into the last event that I just kind of had to land on my feet, basically.
So knowing that I did that, I kind of had a good idea like what the final outcome was going to be. That being said, I wasn't the last competitor to go. So I still had to wait. But as soon as the score came up, like if you look back on the footage, like I still remember this, like so clearly, like my score comes up. So then it like my all around comes up and my dad and I just kind of like look at each other and like we like smile but like a half smile because it's like you want to like be so excited but also like cares more to completely do the routine.
OK. Yeah. Like it's not the final final standings but it's like you kind of know that in a subjective sport you were judged fairly and like basically you think, you know what's going to happen in the next few minutes, but you can't celebrate yet. And then when the final final scores came up, it was a moment that, you know, I will remember for the rest of my life, like it is something that I dreamed about since I was a little girl watching the Magnificent Seven at the ninety six Olympics, watching them win as a as a team like that.
We obviously wanted that as to win gold as a team. We we won silver. And I think that motivated us moving forward to the next few days of competition.
But just seeing the flag being raised and listening to the national anthem and I've never in my life seen my dad cry and I like spotted him a like way across the arena and he was crying. And that's kind of when I lost it. And then hearing the announcer say, like, for the first time, like my name next to the Olympic gold medalist, that was just like a moment that, like, you kind of dream about when you're a little girl and then when it's actually happening, you're just like you don't really believe it.
And yeah, it was it was a moment of, I think, so many different feelings of kind of like I think I just immediately went back to, you know, the little fights that we had in the gym and the moments that I wanted to give up and the obstacles that I had to overcome and the injuries and the doubters and and all of the things that we kind of got through together. I also think, like the coach should stand up there.
Right. Or get some things because we won and I was like, wait, the coach doesn't going to medal.
Yeah. It's like it's a little beyond me because like. Yeah, I understand. Like, the athletes are out there, but it's we can't do it without them by any means. And so and it had been exactly 20 years since he competed. So it was just like a very special like a 20 year. And he actually got the silver and the all around by point one or point or something like like one tenth or something. And so for twenty years he kind of said like he remembered that.
And so I guess when that happened, he was like, OK, you like all of that. So yeah. And so it was very special. I think the thing I struggled with even that day was the enormous amount of pride and accomplishment that I felt immediately. I was like, what now? Because it was this moment that for 18 years of my life that was like this big life, quote unquote, lifelong dream. You have these like short term goals, obviously daily, weekly or whatever.
It is kind of like getting you through that season or that year or that day. But ultimately, that big goal was to win the Olympics at the twenty Olympics. And now I had just done that. And now you're like, wait a second, like, this is great, don't get me wrong. But it was like waking up the next day, even though I still had a few more days of competition, it was just like this strange feeling of.
Accomplishment mixed with like almost like sadness and like glimpses of depression that it was over. Oh, I feel you you know, everything that you would put in was it was done like and yes, it was like it kind of worked out in your favor, but it was very much like this letdown of and I think like so many athletes don't talk about this, I think millions and billions. Oh, it is. It's very real. Very real.
And and yeah. So it was like this like scary feeling of like what now? And the millions of people that like quote unquote fall in love with you, watching you at the Olympics, cheering you on, winning a gold medal and then, you know, the very next year or the next month or the next week, whatever you're like, wait, where are those people? You know, like, nobody's cheering for me. No one's telling me, you know?
And I think that that's where I struggled for actually years, I think, to kind of figure out who I was just like as a person and not necessarily as a gymnast and Olympic gold medal like any of the accomplishments. Right. Like those aren't the things that define you. And it wasn't until four years later.
Yeah, I was on my face I Olympic trials.
Yeah. Like that was the moment. That I finally realized that it took me four plus years to kind of understand that our accomplishments and success like that's not going to define you. Yeah, I had one of those moments. I had two of those. What I didn't make the 2011 World Cup squad originally and then in twenty sixteen when we lost. But so those came and like you said, like, well, I want you to kind of touch on this, your fall from the bars, but it comes from when you do fail and then you're like, OK, well, I'm not a winning soccer player, gymnast or whatever.
What am I machine. Yeah. Yeah, it's crazy, right? So after two thousand eight, did you continue you continue to compete and you were like, I definitely want to go for 2012. Like how did those next four years play out? Because you ultimately chose or decided to try for the 2012 Olympics. So kind of explain that period of time. Yeah. So the very next year our national championships were in Dallas and all very much planned, great marketing.
And so I was pressured by myself and others to compete at a hometown nationals. You know, a few months after I won the Olympics, essentially, like I said, it was it was less than a year, I think. But, you know, we're going through it's a three month tour. It's 30, 40 cities. We are not training seven hours a day, like barely training at all. It is the first time in our lives that we're having fun, you know, not with our coach.
Yeah. Like, we're not with our coaches. We're like adults.
Like, yeah, you're having fun, essentially. And so then it always kind of ends before the holidays. And so then it's like, OK, whoa, nationals are six, seven months. And like, I have not taken more than a day or two off my entire career. And now I just basically took three months off.
And so anyways, long story short, I competed in the national championships in 2009 in Dallas, in Dallas, like terrible like I also like beyond not, you know, tours and like everything after the Olympics, like even leading up to nationals, like, you know, we kind of push back, sponsor, obligate like everything till after the Olympics essentially are as much as we can like. Obviously, there's stuff you have to do before the Olympics. But so that was kind of my time to, like, be doing everything, you know, either contractually or other things that were coming your way.
And it's like you take advantage of those opportunities. And so it was very conflicting because it was like, OK, this isn't why I started gymnastics or why I'm doing the sport.
But now because of how this went for me and these things are like you're like, do I take advantage of the opportunities or am I supposed to feel bad about taking advantage like you don't really understand.
And then it's like but we decided to have nationals in Dallas because of you and like, this is your home. And I'm like, I'm sorry, I have no yeah. I was like, I do not need to be in a leotard right now. Like, I am not in any kind of, like, competitive shape, you know, like physically, mentally, emotionally, none of the above. I ended up competing and that was like I was so not happy.
And that was the first time where I was like, wait, this is weird. Like, I'm not happy doing something that I love so much. Like I need to take a step back and kind of like re-evaluate, you know, why all of a sudden this isn't bringing me joy. Like, do I still love the sport? I still want to keep going. Like it was just like basically you have to do this. And my dad hated it.
Like he hated the fact that, like, I was competing, like for a coach to, like, put your athlete out there and all just like the last time anyone saw you, you were winning the Olympics. And now it's like, oh, gosh, yeah, it was not great. And that was kind of what I we thought he was just like, listen, like either need to do this or not and like no, like hard feelings, but like as your dad I want to be like go take advantage.
But like but if you want to compete at worlds this year or next year, like you have to start, like you can't travel. Like we have to go back to what worked when you won the Olympics. And I was like, whoa, I'm not I don't think I'm ready for that. So I kind of took like the next year or two, probably two, I think. Yeah. Just living and doing all the things. And then it was kind of like.
I think it was around a year before London, maybe a little bit more a year and a half, and I remember being like, whoa, OK, like the Olympics are now like the next Olympics are closer than past ones were, basically. And I, I just it was that fear started creeping in of having regret. And I just knew that I was going to be in London one way or the other, whether I was competing, maybe working or cheering and supporting my teammates on whatever that was.
And I just knew that I didn't want to be sitting in the stands thinking, what if and what if I would have tried and just given it my all regardless of the outcome. And that's what I did. And my shoulder was like I had a torn rotator cuff and LeBron didn't reply. It wasn't fully, but it was like enough to not be able to it was just like not really going my way. But I also was like, what?
I'm too far in to just, like, start not like so it was very it was challenging. But I also just was like, all right, I'm not going to just walk away now and I want this on my own terms. So it made it all the way to trials. Yeah.
And, you know, going in this time, you're the reigning Olympic all around gold medalist, like, a lot more pressure and a lot more expectations and a lot more eyes on you. And I remember. My best event, Barres, last day of competition, I feel like I went back and watched this and faceplant for this conversation, you fell to save face first you literally flat belly flopped onto the mat.
So that's actually the first thing that we're taught is how to fall. So, like, you're supposed to fall like as flat. Oh, yeah. Oh yeah. Because if you think about it, how high?
And also just the impact that you're falling it out over your full body like so many different like your back, you're like you're just like taught to fall completely flat. That being said, it does not feel good like those mats are not off. So you did a good job with your fall, is what you're saying. Basically, I help fix my hair.
So I remember laying there and thinking like it happened so fast, so immediately you're like, whoa, why am I on the floor? My dad, like the dad instinct comes out right away and he's like, Are you OK? Are you hurt? And so many people are like, why didn't he catch you? Like he was standing there. So it happened so fast that like and I touched the ball like my fingers touched the bar. Right. So from when I, like, touched when I felt was like point oh so fast.
And it was just cool. I had, I had I caught the bar and he would have touched me or grabbed me.
The deduction is worth the same as a fall.
So in his mind he's like, wait, I think she might have it, she might not like he doesn't know what to do. And he's like, but if she catches it, I don't want to be the reason. Like, yes, essentially she's falling either way. Almost so long story short, I'm like, I'm fine. Meanwhile, like, oh my gosh. But like, I didn't really like I was just like in shock. And and I think immediately I was embarrassed.
Like, that was my first feeling was you're the best in the world. You are not supposed to fall on your face, literally or figuratively. I wanted to crawl, like, under the podium and. Then I was like, OK, wait, this isn't real, my career ends like this isn't how it ends. And so he said, I remember he was like, you don't have to finish. Like, he just wanted dad mode kicked in.
He wanted, like, his daughter to be safe. And and essentially, I think for me to just be done. And I said, no, like you always told me, no matter what, you have to finish what you started. And for me, that was at least just stop doing so. I had 30 seconds left to get. Once you fall, you have 30 seconds to get back on the bar and finish off so fast.
I think the judges were like a little. And I was like, I think they gave me a little more time. But honestly, they were all like American judges. So but I remember quickly talking up and just being like, you know what, you just like better land on your feet, like on your dismount. And and I did. And immediately I knew, like, my dreams of making that Olympic team were over. And also, like, I was so embarrassed that I literally fell on my face and in front of twenty thousand people there and millions watching back at home.
And by the way, like you were the best in the world, like the expectations for someone that is the greatest is to is to be the best and to be the greatest and not fall in their face. And so I think. There were so many feelings in that moment, and then all of a sudden I started seeing, like people stand on their feet and I was like. Oh, that must be nice, like someone else just went and had the best routine of their life and they're on their way to making the Olympic team and I look around the arena and nobody is going, I was the last person to go.
And so I'm like, why? I'm like, what?
And then I quickly realized, like, these people were giving me a standing ovation, like it was the first standing ovation of my entire career for the worst year of my entire career.
And that was the moment that I realized, like, we're not defined by our success. We are not defined by a placement, a medal, a title, a salary, you know, a job title, a relationship like any of those things don't define us as people. That was the moment that I realized, like, OK, these people are clapping and cheering just for me as a person because our team did not deserve a standing ovation to cry multiple times.
Oh, that's so that's so true.
But I think it's I think everyone feels that way to a certain extent at some period or point in their lives, but especially us as athletes. I think we feel that to an extreme that we are basically like. Are worth sometimes feels justified by each competition or each tournament or each game, and you're only as good as the last time that you won and you're trying to constantly prove to people that you deserve to be loved and supported and cheered for. And like all these things.
And at the end of the day, you're like, we but like, who am I like? Am I even just like, happy and proud of myself and not my performance?
True. Oh, my God. So I think it's so true. Wow.
And yeah. And I just think like four years prior, winning the pinnacle of my what I thought was the pinnacle of my career. Yeah. People were clapping and cheering. No one was standing on their feet like no one was giving me a standing ovation.
Like they're like, oh, good job. But it was.
The relatability, like not many people can relate to winning Olympic gold medal, every single person in this world can relate to falling on their face, literally or figuratively. And it's how do I pick myself up and how do I keep going and how do I not let that fall define me and who I am as a person. Incredible. And so it's like that that sums it up perfectly for, like I said, how I feel so many athletes feel and go through and that, you know, that question of self-worth and where it comes from.
And, you know, like we've I mean, obviously between you and I, we've been so lucky to be as successful as we have been in our sport. And obviously, you're still going. And but I think that a lot of athletes and a lot of people aren't as lucky to sometimes feel like the success in the winning and all that. And so, so much of their career and their lives are are constantly these moments of not feeling enough because they may never feel, you know, what it's like to win or to be the best or whatever.
And so that's kind of when I started thinking that and realizing that I'm like, well, like win or lose, like, it doesn't define us, you know, in my in my parents, it just like then it made me realize I'm like, oh, this is like what they've always told me since day one. Like, they didn't care if I won an Olympic gold medal. They they wanted me to be, you know, a great daughter and a great friend and a great teammate and have a good heart and hopefully one day be a great wife and mom.
And and that's what life is more about and not necessarily like. Yeah. How many medals you win. What's on the score sheet.
Those are. Yeah. Yeah. How do you get to that moment.
Because you know, after that you officially retired. And do you feel like that I mean, you have said that moment was kind of a defining moment for you in your career, but also more importantly, in your life. So do you think that that helped you transition out of gymnastics and into normal life and putting air quotes around it?
Because that's you know, that's you would never you had never done that yet.
You hadn't figured out, like, who am I outside of Nastia, the gymnast?
Yeah, I think the greatest thing I went on tour again, went to the Olympics literally. The next day my agent gets a call from NBC. And that is what you know, it's like I think it's such a truce that when one door closes, another one opens. And that's kind of where, like my broadcast career essentially started, I guess, and I went on tour after that. But then in January, I moved to New York and I started school at NYU.
I had been putting school off for about six years at this point. And so it was the combination of gymnastics now being done and moving to a new city and being in school and trying to make real friends and trying to fit in. And it was really scary. And like I was twenty two. Twenty two. Twenty three. So, you know, a little older than most freshmen going to college. But my first day of class, this group of like students in my class, they're like, hey, we have like a fake ID for you if you want to come out with us.
And I'm like I'm almost twenty three and they're like Oh don't toll on us.
I'm like, OK, but that was when I was like, well shoot there goes like that group of friends like they're never to. So I so badly just like wanted to be normal and in and it was I majored in sports management. So that was also challenging because I was around the Olympics and my full name is actually Anastasia and I tried going by that, but I've never responded or gone by that I would get called in my life. So that was a fail and I would just be like, literally.
Yeah. And I was like, OK, this is not gonna work.
So so then I just I think that just like living and being the only child and obviously being super close to my parents, like it was tough, but I think it was the best thing that I could have done. And yeah, I think like that was the moment that just made me realize, like, I started making real friends and they didn't care. Like my real friends didn't care. Like, yeah, cool. That's great. Like you were a gymnast.
OK, but that wasn't of course there were the people that wanted to be my friend wanted to date me and like all those things because of, like, my accomplishments. But you learn to like, pick up on that very quickly. And I just yeah, it was it was the some of the greatest years of my life just kind of being Nastia and not, you know, being a gymnast and not being defined by, like for the first time in my life, like no one had to know what my score was on my exam.
And it was I was like competitive.
But I think it also made me realize that if you can look at it like in a different way of I did gymnastics as opposed to I was a gymnast or I am a gymnast, like, it sounds so simple, but when you sit back and think about it, it it that that's where it starts, right. Like that's where like the defining kind of starts. And again, like I am proud that gymnastics is such a huge part of my life and and forever will be like I it's something I still love to this day, but it's it's not who I am.
That's awesome. And I feel like I mean, you have obviously flourished post gymnastics career. And I feel like that's a large part due to the fact that you were able to have that almost reckoning with yourself and come to that realization that, like, I am nasty, I'm not nasty. And, you know, I've won an Olympic gold medal. I've won a bunch of medals, but who am I as a human, as a person? And I think that's so important and so relatable for not just other athletes, but just people in general.
I feel like so many people define themselves by what they do, what they've accomplished, as opposed to like who they are to their core. And I think it's important to be able to do that because I feel like that's how you get the most joy out of life. So I feel like this is I mean, all of this has been amazing. And I've loved all of your perspective. And I feel like so many people are going to really benefit from hearing this, especially from you like.
I hope so. OK, so we have some repeat questions that we do. And the first one is second repeat question. They say work hard, get lucky. How much of your success is predicated on luck?
Oh, that's a good question. I feel like in a sport like gymnastics, there's definite. Some luck in the sense of it being subjective and, you know, the stars aligning and you having a good day, especially knowing it's for so many once in a lifetime or every four years for some, if you're lucky.
But I would say like. 90 to 90, 10, like 90 percent hard work, like it's just I've never been one to rely on luck. Like, I don't think that that's if you can work harder. Why wouldn't you? Like, why would you rely on luck or someone to not work hard or someone to not have a good day. So yeah, I would say 90, 10.
All right. I dig it. OK, so you've obviously accomplished so much as a gymnast, but now you're accomplishing so much outside of gymnastics. So for you personally, where do you go next and how do you keep pushing? That's a good question. I think my biggest thing is, you know, relaunching and rebranding a company and brands that I started a few years ago and kind of took a pause on it. But in rebranding it now and it's called the Muse Collective, and it's really just trying to create a platform and a community to inspire the next generation.
And that doesn't necessarily mean, you know, to inspire the next gymnast to become big champions. Like, that's not what it's about. It's more so how do we, you know, come together as women or not? Not even necessarily just as women, but I think just as individuals and support each other and support each other's dreams. And being in such a competitive sport for so many years, I'm so like over the competition aspect that I'm like, how can we build each other up?
And what did I learn? Kind of what I was saying, like what did I learn that I can pass along to to others? Not like what what in my journey, in my story might resonate with someone going through something right now that could help them. And so. Yeah, so I'm excited about that. That is something that I have been working on and and kind of like different avenues and things within the brand in the company itself. I love it.
I'm excited to see that take off for you. I think that'll be awesome. And I'm sure so many people will enjoy that.
And I know that so many people, all of those all of our listeners are going to love this episode. And I'm so thankful that you came on and gave so much of your time today and shared your story.
And we're vulnerable and honest and open and awesome. And I just I loved this conversation, so I appreciate you. Me too. Thanks for having me. Thanks so much for listening. For more great sports content, go to just women's sports dot com and be sure to subscribe to our newsletter. Our show was co-produced by Just Sports and Boom integrated big thanks to our executive producers Hayley Rose and Adrian Glover and Robin Lynn. Jawn Murray and Sydney Shot do our research production by Jen Grossman, Jeni Montalva, Victoria Gruenberg, Clint Rose and Juan Garcia Tekoa.
Special thanks to Jesse Louis, Haley Kazmaier, seven Knobler, Doree Newman, Aces Haywood and Kathleen Bobby. I'm Kelly O'Hara and you've been listening to the Just Women Sports podcast catch next on.