I had just turned 9 years old, and I was mesmerized by Lilia Podkopayeva, the gold medalist in the all-around gymnastics competition at the 1996 Olympic games. Her grace and beauty, combined with complicated skills, were not matched by anybody else: she was the complete package.
Since then, I have watched the Olympics gymnastics competition every 4 years. As the years went on, there were great gymnasts (Svetlana Khorkina, Shannon Miller, Carly Patterson, Simona Amanar, etc.), but most of them were successful not because of their artistry, but because of their powerful athleticism. The ones that were artistic seemed to not do well with the judges: the sport of artistic gymnastics slowly seemed to be fading away. It had been 12 years, and I had yet to see someone as amazing as Podkopayeva perform to their potential in the all-around competition… until last night.
Last night, Nastia Liukin performed 4 flawless routines with perfect artistry, grace, and athleticism. As soon as I saw her second routine (uneven bars), I knew it: She was the next complete package! The long wait had finally ended, and it was a matter of executing her routines on the biggest stage in the world. As much as Shawn Johnson is a great gymnast, she just does not have the same grace as Liukin. The only question left was if the judges would still see this competition as an artistic gymnastics competition, and the answer was yes. It was a wonderful competition, with lots of amazing gymnastics from all women. But at the end of the day, there she was with a long-awaited, much-deserved Olympic gold medal around her neck: her grace and artistry winning over the hearts of the judges and everybody else in the world.