Gymnast Nastia Liukin won gold in the all-around at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. So what happens when you accomplish your greatest life goal before turning 20? espnW finds out what's next for Nastia.
espnW: What was it like returning to your hometown of Dallas after winning the gold medal for the all-around at the 2008 Beijing Olympics?
Nastia Liukin: Coming home after the Olympics was very surreal and a huge shock. The things that my city and state did for me were unreal. To this day, I remember those first few days like it was just yesterday.
espnW: What kinds of things did they do?
NL: There were helicopters filming my arrival into Dallas. On the drive home from the airport, my neighbors were at the edge of their driveways cheering. Someone even put a sign in my yard that said, "Home of Olympic champion Nastia Liukin."
espnW: That's crazy. What exactly does it feel like to win a gold medal?
NL: At the time, it is so unbelievable. It took weeks for it to actually hit me. I will remember the moment that I was standing on the podium, listening to my national anthem with the gold medal around my neck, for the rest of my life.
espnW: Where do you keep your gold medal?
NL: In a safe at my parents' house.
espnW: When you travel with your medals, do you have any problems at security?
NL: One time security stopped me and said, "Ma'am, you have five large metal objects in your purse."
espnW: One of the perks that came with winning gold was that you were featured on a Wheaties box. Did you ever eat your own Wheaties?
NL: I never did, but they included a bunch of boxes for me to eat.
It was funny actually, they sent me a lot of extras when I was on the box, so we passed them out at my parents' gym. All the little kids quickly ripped them open and started eating from them. Their parents were like, "Nooooooo."
espnW: What else have you been up to since winning?
NL: I have had so many wonderful opportunities, met many great people and created friendships. I have had the chance to experience many different things outside of the gymnastics world, such as modeling and acting.
espnW: What's your favorite thing to do outside of gymnastics?
NL: Shopping! Watching movies, hanging out with my friends.
espnW: What's your idea of happiness?
NL: It's so important to surround yourself with the people you love and the things you love to do. But, with that said, I've realized over the past few years, that nobody can make you happy. Happiness has to come from within.
espnW: Who's your favorite pro athlete?
NL: Maria Sharapova. She is such a wonderful role model and friend to me. I got to experience my first Fashion Week in NYC with Maria, which was a blast.
Dirk Nowitzki is another one. I got to meet him in Beijing. That was one of my all-time favorite moments from the Olympics, besides winning my five medals, of course.
espnW: Tell us about seeing Dirk in Beijing.
NL: That was one of the very few moments that I have been starstuck. I saw him in the Olympic Village and was so nervous to say anything to him. So I thought I had missed my opportunity to meet him, I was so bummed. Then the day of all-around finals, I was standing in line behind him getting breakfast and freaked out when I realized who I was standing behind. Some of my teammates convinced me to say hi to him and ask for a picture. Then, after we took a picture, I said, "Go Mavs!" Everyone started laughing and to this day we all joke about that.
espnW: Will we see you in the London Olympics in 2012?
NL: I will definitely be there, whether or not I compete.
espnW: You're only 21 years old and you've already achieved your dream. So what comes next?
NL: Setting new dreams! Achieving my long-term goal of winning the Olympics was incredible, but I know there is always life beyond that.