Nastia Liukin is one gymnast who won’t be heading off to London for the 2012 Summer Games. Her exit from the Olympic stage at the ripe old age of 22 (and yes, I say that with a generous dose of sarcasm) was shocking, heartbreaking and dramatic.
During her performance on the uneven bars on the final night of the Olympic Trials on Sunday evening, Nastia fell, and fell hard. The crowd at the HP Pavilon in San Jose were united in a collective gasp as she dropped to ground in a belly flop. The fault for the error is shared with her father/coach/mentor Valeri Liukin who reportedly did not spot his daughter correctly during the routine.
But while this sealed the coffin on her Olympic dreams, there is much to be learned from her losing – a lesson that I was happy to share with my young daughter.
Nastia’s epic fall has been shown countless times. At home I’ve already seen it replayed four times since it occurred. Beyond the naming of the Olympic team, it was the big story of the day, if not bigger. Being the lucky blogger I am, my daughter and I were at the Olympic Trials in person in conjunction with The American Girl Doll movie McKenna: Shoot for the Stars based on their gymnast doll – a film that also tackles the topic of winning and losing, not just in sports but in school. But I digress, being there in person, being part of that collective gasp was intense. More notable was what happened afterwards, which was far more remarkable and an occurrence I used as a teachable moment for my 6-year-old daughter.
Right now, my daughter – whose sport of choice is soccer – is all about the winning and has yet to conquer how to lose, and how to do it graciously. And it isn’t just sports. If she loses a game of Candyland she freaks. It’s something we’re working on; an important lesson to be learned especially in a lifetime that will not just include her triumphs (hopefully) but a fair share of losses. As Neil Sjoberg said in the BBC’s 60 Second Idea, “Children need to be taught that failure is frequent and normal, it is not the end of the world and we should all help this by a cultural shift in admitting that we failed. Only by learning to lose can we achieve success.”
Even in her failure Nastia is a success. After her devastating fall, the crowd at the stadium began to scream her name, cheer her on and applaud her continued efforts. After the routine was complete, as Nastia fought through tears, she was celebrated with a rousing round of applause and a standing ovation. She was incredible touched by the support, later tweeting, “Thank you to the 18,000 people that gave me a standing ovation tonight. I will remember this moment for the rest of my life.” She added that she was, “Overwhelmed by the love and support. I would have never imagined anything like this … Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.” Her job is a family affair and added, “Most importantly … Thank u to my parents & special people in my life that always kept me calm, believed in me & shown their love & support.”
While she stood there, defeated, but still standing strong and tall, she showed us all how to lose. It was a perfect example of the old adage, “it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” And Nastasia? She played the game with grace and proves to be an inspiration in winning and in losing.
Photos: NBC and SunnyChanel