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Olympic medalist Liukin visits Pittsburgh to promote U.S. gymnastics championships

| Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, 7:36 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Olympic gold medal gymnast Nastia Liukin visits with students at X-Cel Gymnastics on Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2014, during a stop at the school in Cranberry.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Olympic gold medal gymnast Nastia Liukin poses for a photo with students at X-Cel Gymnastics on Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2014, during a stop at the school in Cranberry.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Olympic gold medal gymnast Nastia Liukin talks with students at X-CEL Gymnastics Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2014, during a visit to the school in Cranberry.

Olympic gold medalist Nastia Liukin retired from competitive gymnastics at 22, which might sound young until you know this: She retired as a 20-year veteran.

Liukin, who took up gymnastics as a 2-year-old, is traveling the U.S. promoting the sport, including the 2014 P&G Gymnastics Championships that will be Aug. 21-24 at Consol Energy Center. It's the first time the event that crowns the nation's best gymnasts — men, women, juniors and seniors — will be in Pittsburgh.

Ticket sales have been brisk, she said, for fans wanting to get a glimpse of the U.S. team that will compete at the world championships later this year.

Wednesday was an especially busy day for Liukin, 24. She visited young gymnasts in Charlotte, N.C., in the morning before traveling to X-Cel Gymnastics in Cranberry and Jewart's Gymnastics in Hampton by nightfall and riding the Zamboni at Wednesday night's Penguins game.

In Cranberry, X-Cel owners estimated she signed about 500 autographs.

Born in Moscow and raised in Dallas, Liukin will return to her native land next month for the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, where she will do lifestyle features for NBC.

“I'll be giving fans an inside look at being at the Olympic Games, exploring the city,” Liukin said.

“Not just interviews with athletes but more hands-on, maybe getting on skates.”

After that, the NYU sophomore, who is majoring in sports management, plans to travel to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympics where she will be part of the NBC-TV commentating team, this time focusing on gymnastics.

Both Olympics promise to be less taxing than the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, where she tied a U.S. gymnastics record held by Mary Lou Retton and Shannon Miller by earning five medals (one gold, three silver, one bronze).

“I achieved what I wanted to in gymnastics,” she said. “I left with no regrets. I don't really necessarily feel I left the sport. I just kind of chaged roles.

“At a point, your body has kind of had enough.

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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