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Pretty in Pink, Liukin Wins All-Around
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2008 Olympic all-around champion Nastia Liukin (U.S.)

Two decades after her father took silver, American Nastia Liukin won the all-around gold medal Friday at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Liukin had a near-perfect performance (63.325) to defeat teammate Shawn Johnson (62.725) and China's Yang Yilin (62.650).

Coached by her father, 1988 Olympic all-around silver medalist Valery Liukin, Liukin gave a golden performance that was an equal mix artistry and athleticism. From her stuck vault in the first rotation to a final balletic floor routine, the 18-year-old looked so determined Friday there was no doubt she would hit. Even a fall on her side in floor exercise warmups couldn't unnerve her: She ended with the highest floor score of the night, 15.525.

"It's not possible to describe how proud I am," Valery Liukin said.

The title was a long time coming for Nastia Liukin, who was born in Moscow to two gymnastics champions. Her father, Valery Liukin, pioneered the triple back on floor exercise, was a gold medalist at two world championships and won four medals in Seoul: gold with the Soviet team and on the high bar, and silver in the all-around and parallel bars. Her mother, Anna Kochneva Liukin, is a former rhythmic gymnastics champion and the 1987 world champion with clubs.

Liukin is tied with Shannon Miller for the most medals by an American gymnast at world competition (nine), but until now, a major all-around title had eluded her. She finished a controversial second at the 2005 World Championships in Melbourne; despite mathematically tying teammate Chellsie Memmel, Liukin was bumped to second because of a faulty scoring system that truncated scores (ie, 9.587 is in actuality 9.5875).

A few weeks before the 2006 Worlds, Liukin suffered an ankle injury that limited her to uneven bars only. Following surgery, she returned to the all-around at the 2007 Worlds, but fell on balance beam to finish fifth.

Known for her competitive intensity and a serious game face, Liukin shed tears of joy and relief Friday after claiming the title she wanted most of all. It is the second straight Olympic title for her Texas club, WOGA, where 2004 champion Carly Patterson trained.

Reigning world champion Shawn Johnson stood up plenty of tricks but gave away too much in execution, especially on uneven bars where she caught her releases very close to the bar. Johnson, whom many had tapped to take the gold with ease, only pulled ahead of Yang in the final rotation with a score that matched Liukin on floor. The disappointment was evident on the 16-year-old Johnson's face, and she broke down into tears as she walked down after her floor routine.

Yang led after the halfway mark, but slipped after a few small mistakes on her two weak events, balance beam and floor exercise. Yang alone carried China's hopes to continue its golden streak in Beijing, after teammate Jiang Yuyuan (seventh) fell on her Yurchenko 2 1/2 in the first rotation.

Russia's Ksenia Semyonova had a strong performance to finish fourth, but was hobbled by a weak vault (Yurchenko 1 1/2 with a large step forward). She finished less than eight tenths out of bronze.

There was a large drop off after fourth place, with fifth-place Steliana Nistor of Romania nearly a point behind Semyonova. Nistor, the 2007 world all-around silver medalist, had a strong competition except for a large break on beam (full turn with leg up).

Anna Pavlova finished behind Jiang, three places down from her controversial fourth place in Athens. The 21-year-old Russian was elegant and athletic (beautiful stuck double layout on floor exercise) but doomed by a simple uneven bars routine (5.7 A Panel).

Romania's Sandra Izbasa finished eighth, one spot ahead of 33-year-old Oksana Chusovitina (Germany). In her fifth Olympics, the former Uzbek improved on her 10th place finish in Atlanta in 1996.

Brazil's Jade Barbosa, 2007 world all-around bronze medalist, finished 10th after sitting down her Yurchenko 2 1/2. 2006 world champion Vanessa Ferrari, 11th, began well on balance beam (15.600) but fell on floor exercise on her full-in.

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