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Nastia Liukin on growing up a gymnast, the Olympics, and more

Nastia Liukin, five-time Olympic medalist and gymnast at

Nastia Liukin, five-time Olympic medalist and gymnast at a Fisher-Price event in Plano, TX. (July 19, 2012) Credit: Mattel

When Anastasia "Nastia" Liukin was 2, her family moved from Moscow, Russia to the United States. Her parents, gymnastics coaches, never intended for her to be a gymnast but by 6-years-old, Nastia was already competing and by age 12, she was an Elite gymnast to go on to be a five-time Olympic medalist.

"I think becoming a gymnast was part of me before I even ever knew it," said Liukin. "That passion was there from day one. I never wanted to leave the gym, I never wanted to take my leotard off and I think that's the way it should be if you're going to stick with something for so many years."

Many kids share the same passion for team sports, but for some, it's a struggle to balance extra-curricular activities with schoolwork. "School was important to me," said Luikin. "I started doing two trainings a day when I was in the fifth grade, so I would train from 8 a.m. - noon, then go to school from 12:30 - 3 p.m. and train again from 3:30 - 6:30 p.m.. It was a full day, but it was something that I loved to do."

Luikin's father was also her coach and it was his priority to make sure her schoolwork was done before she went to the gym. "For kids trying to balance everything, my advice would be to take a step back and make sure you're enjoying it all -- even if it's hard -- because it will make the long days and full schedules worthwhile."

If you have a little one eager to be a gymnast, Luikin suggests creating vision boards with images of your kids' current goals," she said. "This is something I always did because having that visual helped me to stay focused on what I wanted to accomplish and it reminded me why I needed to work hard every single day."

Another way to nurture a love for gymnastics is to find the perfect tumbling buddy. The Fantastic Gymnastics Dora from Fisher-Price ($50; fisherprice.com) features two routines and seven unique moves so children can be her coach and do the moves alongside with her as they get older.  She also says over 40 phrases in English and Spanish.

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