She had to start somewhere, though.
Liukin had some struggles during training Friday, and admitted she was nervous about being back out on the floor. But when it came time to compete, it was if she'd never been away.
"I didn't know what to expect, to be honest," said her father and coach, Valeri. "I was hoping for this."
Liukin has the same grace and gorgeous lines as her mother Anna, a world champion in rhythmic gymnastics, making everything she does look elegant and effortless. Her landings were all whisper-soft, not heavy thuds, and one element flowed into the next, as if to say, "Oh, you thought that was nice? You might like this then." Her aerial cartwheel was done with more ease than most folks would manage on flat ground.
Her only noticeable flaw was a small balance check on her leap, though she didn't get credit for connecting elements, which makes them worth more.
When she landed her dismount, she flashed a big smile and the crowd responded with deafening shrieks and cheers.
"Today I felt more like the old Nastia," she said. "A spark of it."
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