A couple weeks back when I did my Olympic preview, I had Shawn Johnson as one of my 7 athletes I’d be watching in the Beijing Games.
Well, I watched her last night (this morning, really), but the real U.S. gymnast to watch was Nastia Liukin.
The daughter of a Soviet gymnast, born in the Soviet Union, Liukin represents everything that makes America great. She came here as an immigrant, embraced America, and now America is embracing her in return (and yes, I know that reads like a lame promo for America, but deal with it. It’s the Olympics).
Liukin was the picture of grace in her routines. Her floor exercise was both flawless and beautiful, and put the gold out of Johnson’s reach (the 16-year-old from Iowa did settle for the silver).
How amazing was Liukin? Well, while some AP stories might have you believe that she “edged” Johnson for the gold, her 0.600 point margin of victory was actually tied for the 3rd largest margin ever. Amazingly, the performance she tied was Nadia Comaneci’s revolutionary performance at the 1976 Games, where she scored a perfect 10.0 on uneven bars.
And let’s not ignore the significance of the US’s 1-2 finish. The only countries to previously take the top two spots in this event were Romania (in 2000) and the Soviet Union (in 1952 and 1960), so this is a pretty big deal for USA Gymnastics.