Olympic hopes slip away for Liukin

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Nastia Liukin insists she isn't in San Jose for herself.

She said she came here knowing she would not be able to relive the glory of 2008, when she was the Olympic all-around champion in Beijing.

Kyle Terada/US Presswire

Nastia Liukin fell on her dismount from the uneven bars in front of father and coach Valeri Liukin.

Liukin said she wanted to help the U.S. team in whatever way she could. Her presence certainly made sponsors and spectators happy. But she might have to settle for rooting from the sidelines from here on out.

Liukin's attempt at a comeback fizzled Friday night at HP Pavilion when she fell on the uneven bars and bobbled late in a beam routine that has long been her specialty.

"It's obviously disappointing," Liukin said. "I wish I could have gone out there and made a better bar routine, but under the circumstances I've been under the past few months ... it is what it is, basically. I have to move on and I have to refocus for Day 2."

At 22, Liukin still is a striking gymnast, long and elegant -- and now flawed. But it has been less than nine months since she decided to come back, and a shoulder injury has slowed her ability to train and progress.

She admitted she ran out of gas at the end of her routine on the bars -- the first rotation of the night -- and broke form in a handstand, subsequently falling on her dismount and landing on her backside.

"If I had a little bit more time, a few more weeks, maybe it would have been a little bit better," Liukin said.

Her beam routine didn't have a disastrous mistake, but a significant bobble at the end sent her walking off the floor looking pained.

Her father and coach, Valeri Liukin, seemed subdued and puzzled after Friday's competition.

"I don't know. I'm very ... " Valeri Liukin said, tailing off. "In practice, she does it; in competition, she doesn't. She was never one of those nervous girls in competition; she was a warrior, all the time."

Asked whether his daughter doesn't feel like the same gymnast she used to be, Valeri Liukin responded, "Probably."

Nastia Liukin said she has nothing to lose Sunday, given that Friday's performance likely closed the door on her chances to reach another Olympics.

"You have to come back out there and show that you are a fighter and that you aren't just going to give up. I could have easily just scratched after bars and said I'm finished. ... I was at the peak and prime of my career four years ago, and if anybody would have told me that I'd be competing at the 2012 trials, I wouldn't have believed them," she said.

Liukin said she feels a sense of accomplishment merely to be competing in San Jose. But she also is looking forward to what's next in her life, including moving to New York and beginning classes at NYU in January.

"If I can help out the team, that's great," Liukin said. "If not, I'm ready to take on life and what's next for me."

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