Congratulations to Nastia Liukin and Blaine Wilson for being inducted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame in Pittsburgh, PA this past Friday. We are proud of their accomplishments in both their careers and everyday lives!
Liang Chow’s gymnasts are coming home with some hardware.
Norah Flatley was third in the junior all-around at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships on Saturday, and her two teammates also finished in the top eight. Flatley, Alexis Vasquez and Victoria Nguyen each won an individual event medal, too.
“It was a good day for the Chow family,” Chow said, beaming.
It usually is.
Like Karolyi’s and WOGA before him, Chow has the makings of a U.S. gymnastics dynasty at his gym in West Des Moines. His gymnasts have won three gold medals at the last two Olympics, including Gabby Douglas’ all-around title, and several of the “Baby Chows” are sure to be in the mix for Rio.
Vasquez will move up to seniors next year, joining teammate Rachel Gowey, who had to withdraw after breaking her ankle on a beam dismount during training Wednesday. Flatley has one more year as a junior, but she’ll be eligible for Rio.
Nguyen doesn’t turn 16 until Jan. 21, 2016, missing the cutoff for the Olympics by three weeks.
“I’m looking forward for the next chapter for these young ladies,” Chow said. “I see lots of room for them to develop, and I see lots of potential for these kids.”
The structure of the national team program means young gymnasts no longer have to leave home in order to have a shot at the Olympics or world championships. There are monthly training camps at Martha Karolyi’s ranch outside Houston, and Karolyi gives the personal coaches feedback and advice on training their athletes.
Like anything, however, kids want to go where the medals are. But Chow is not simply the latest flavor of the month.
“I think he has a very strong technical knowledge. That’s No. 1, which is extremely important,” Karolyi said earlier this month. “Besides that, he has a very calm nature and works well with people. Even though he’s very calm, he is very demanding. You’re not just doing things, you have to do the things at your best every day. He expects that, and that pays off.”
All you have to do is look at standings. Or listen to the “clink, clink, clink” of medals as Chow’s gymnasts walk off the floor after a meet.
In addition to her all-around bronze, Flatley won a silver on uneven bars and just missed a medal on balance beam, finishing fourth after a fall. Vasquez won balance beam, while Nguyen tied for third on floor exercise.
“I’m very proud because these kids are working very hard. They did not get here automatically,” Chow said.
Chow said the fundamentals — conditioning and flexibility — will be a priority for all three in the coming months. And as the all-important Olympic season gets closer, Flatley and Vasquez are sure to add even bigger skills to their routines so they can be factors for Rio.
“It’s going to be crazy. You see that my bumps are out,” Chow continued, holding out his arm. “It will be exciting. I think we’ve got for Team USA a good group of young talents coming up.”
Inside The Games
The sixth edition of the Nastia Liukin Cup will take place on its biggest stage yet, when the AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas hosts the event in March next year.
Home of the Dallas Cowboys American football franchise, the 80,000 capacity AT&T Stadium will host the event on March 6, which will be followed the next day by the AT&T American Cup, an International Gymnastics Federation World Cup event featuring some of the world’s top gymnasts.
First launched in 2010 by former Olympic gold medal winner Liukin and USA Gymnastics, the Nastia Liukin Cup is an annual artistic gymnastics competition for promising junior and senior female athletes in the US.
Senior athletes must be 16 years of age or older and junior athletes must be 15 or younger.
Eighteen competitors from each category will be in action at the AT&T Stadium.
They will be selected following a series of invitational meetings held across the US as part of the Nastia Liukin Cup Series.
The series begins on January 9 next year in Atlanta and Chicago, which are two of 25 meetings scheduled to take place, culminating with the final six qualifiers being held from February 13 to 15 in the cities of Chicago, Frisco, Orlando, Phoenix and Virginia Beach.
Gymnasts who compete in the Nastia Liukin Cup will receive a Nastia Liukin-designed leotard and a warm-up from GK Elite, along with two tickets to the American Cup and the opportunity to meet Liukin and be in a team photo.
“Competing in AT&T Stadium is a once in a lifetime opportunity for any athlete,” said Steve Penny, President of USA Gymnastics.
“The Nastia Liukin Cup is about making dreams come true for young gymnasts, and this year it will be no exception.”
Liukin is the daughter of Seoul 1988 Olympic gymnastics gold medallist Valeri Liukin and former world champion Anna Kothneva, who competed for the Soviet Union before they moved to the US in the early 1990s from Russia.
Liukin, who now lives in Dallas, is a four-time world champion, while at the 2008 Olympic Games she won the gold medal in the women’s all-around competition as well as three silver and one bronze.
Her efforts in Beijing saw her inducted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame earlier this year after matching the US gymnastics record for the most medals at one Olympics with Mary Lou Retton at Los Angeles 1984 and Shannon Miller, who achieved the same feat at Barcelona 1992.
She retired in 2012 after failing to make the US team for the London Olympics.
“Staging the Nastia Liukin Cup in Dallas, my hometown, means a lot,” she said.
“To have it happen in the great venue where the Cowboys play is incredible.
“What an awesome experience it will be for the young women competing in this year’s Cup.
“I am very gratified by how the Nastia Liukin Cup has grown and the unique competitive opportunity it provides the participants.”
USA Luge is on its annual search for new sliders, and after stops in New York City, Maryland, Illinois and California the team is making a visit to upstate New York.
The national organization is holding recruitment clinics this weekend in Utica.
The Slider Search tour uses sleds on wheels and discovered Erin Hamlin in 1999 at the age of 12. Hamlin, who grew up just north of Utica in Remsen, is now a three-time Olympian, former world champion, and won the bronze medal in women’s singles at the Sochi Olympics.
Hamlin is on the coaching staff this weekend, sharing her knowledge and experiences with youngsters ages 10-13.
Slider Search was established in 1985. Seven of 10 on the U.S. team at Sochi got their starts in the program.
At the London 2012 Olympic Games, Team USA athletes won 46 events. This translated to 127 different U.S. athletes coming home with gold medals in their pockets — and 10 U.S. Olympians had more than just one.
For diver David Boudia, it was the culmination of a dream that began in 1996 while he watched the Opening Ceremony of the Atlanta Olympic Games on TV. At the time, he was a 7-year-old gymnast. Little did he know that he would win his Olympic gold medal in men’s 10-meter platform diving, a sport he discovered at age 11 because he was burned out on gymnastics. For someone who wanted to defy gravity and be acrobatic, it was the perfect fit.
But at the 2012 London Games, Boudia’s medal chances in men’s platform looked grim. He barely advanced from the prelims. Then in a tight battle in the final with China’s Qiu Bo, the reigning world champion, Boudia only knew that it was close.
After his last dive, Boudia saw his name atop the scoreboard — and it stayed there after Qiu Bo’s last dive. He still didn’t understand what it meant until he saw people in (happy) tears around him.
“It’s hard to fathom when a dream is accomplished like being an Olympic champion because you’ve worked so hard through the years,” Boudia said by phone from his home in Indiana. “It finally happens, you’re kind of in disbelief.”
He took off three months after the London Games, married his girlfriend Sonnie, and “settled down to life.” When he returned to competition in 2013, he struggled. What was the point, he wondered? He had already won the Olympic Games.
But he had no intention of retiring and realized that diving provided a living for himself and his family. It also provided discipline to his life, and he loved it.
“As Olympians, we’re so turbo in our mindset, it’s just go, go, go,” he said. “We forget why we do it sometimes.”
At the 2013 FINA World Championships last July, he became the first American male since 1986 to medal in 10-meter platform at back-to-back world championships when he took silver. Then at the 2014 FINA Diving World Series in March, he claimed a bronze medal in the platform.
Now 25, he is competing in springboard as well as platform diving and wants to compete in three events at the 2016 Olympic Games — although which ones he does not know yet.
But he does know this: “I definitely know that I’m going back to defend that title in the platform event.”