Nastia Liukin talks values and hard work on SMU campus

The Daily Campus

Nastia Liukin spoke to a full auditorium about her experience as an Olympic gymnast and how she discovered who she is outside of the gym. A crowd of roughly 150 college students and community members gathered at the Hughes-Trigg Theatre to hear the athlete and SMU alum speak Tuesday night.

The lecture was hosted by the Delta Gamma Fraternity in conjunction with the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility. Liukin’s relevancy and local residency played a strong role in selecting her as the speaker for this year’s event.

“Knowing that we usually have an audience of young girls played a big part in deciding on Nastia Liukin,” Katelynn Moriarty, Delta Gamma Director of Foundation Events said. “We wanted someone people would be interested in coming to, and her SMU connection and Dallas ties were a big draw.”

Liukin attended SMU during the spring semester after her victory at the 2008 Beijing Olympics where she became a five-time Olympic medalist. She even told the crowd that she still has her SMU ID from her time on campus.

In her time trying out for the 2012 Olympic team, Liukin faced criticism. She learned how to use this as a means of motivation before moving on to other aspects of her career.

“It’s really easy when people are supporting you and telling you that you’re awesome,” Liukin said. “But when everyone turns their back on you, it’s hard. I used that to motivate me, and it taught me to surround myself with the right people.”

Liukin’s experience with criticism and hardship had a large impact on one audience member in particular.

“Her message about not letting other people’s negativity toward you affect you was refreshing coming from her,” SMU student Jennifer Bojues said. “In the media she is always portrayed in such a positive light and you don’t know the struggles she goes through behind closed doors.”
Liukin discussed the hard work and long hours she had to put in in order to achieve her goals.

“It was really inspiring for me and I admire the work that Nastia put into her achievements and hope to achieve that same level of satisfaction in my life,” SMU student Brittney Effner said.

A group of young local gymnasts sat in the audience listening to Liukin talk about her time in the Olympics, hoping maybe someday they will get there too. The girls were around 10-years-old, and Liukin took a moment to speak to them directly about pursuing their dreams.

“Find that passion for yourself,” she said. “Whatever it is you choose to do, do it for yourself.”

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