Whatever Happened to
Valeri Liukin?

 

Photo by Matthew Barber

For a complete listing of Liukin's competitive results, please see Gymn Forum's Liukin biography

 

Photo by Matthew Barber

Valeri Liukin was born in Aktiubinsk, Kazakhstan on December 17, 1966. A gymnast from the age of 7, he became quite serious about gymnastics around age 11. At this time, Liukin moved to Alma-Ata to train under Eduard Yarov at the local Dynamo club. His talent was noticed, and Valeri was asked to move to Moscow at the age of sixteen to join the Junior National team. 

By 1984, Liukin was ready for the world stage. His biggest meet of the year was the 1985 Friendship Cup (Druzhba), a competition where many Soviet stars have debued. At this meet, Liukin enjoyed team gold and placed 4th AA. 1985 was a better year for him individually. He won six medals (1st T, 2nd AA, 2nd FX, 1st PH, 1st PB, 1st HB) at the 1985 Youth Friendship competition and six medals at the 1985 International Japan Junior Invitational (1st AA, 1st PH (tie), 1st R, 1st V, 1st PB, 1st HB (tie)). One year later he became the 1986 USSR National Youth Champion.

Photo by Matthew Barber

Despite strong showings in 1986 (e.g., 2nd AA at the Junior International Friendship Cup (Druzhba), 2nd AA at the Ahoy Cup, 1st T and 1st V at the Goodwill Games, and 2nd AA at the Riga International), it wasn't until the 1987 European Championships that Liukin heralded himself as one of the greats. Here in Moscow, Liukin collected five gold medals, a silver and a bronze. His AA victory resulted after defeating reigning World Champion, Yuri Korolev (also the 1981 World Champion), by half a point. Most amazing, however, was his World debut of a triple back on the floor exercise. 

Liukin was highly touted for the 1987 World AA title, but a knee injury suffered during the team competition prevented him from qualifying to the AA competition. Healthy again in 1988, he set his sights upon the summer Olympics in Seoul, Korea. Liukin performed well, earning four medals (team gold, silver in the all-around, silver on PB, and gold on HB).

Liukin continued in the sport over the next few years despite several injuries. For example, his 1989 season was hampered by a broken right arm. His 1990 results were promising, and in 1991 he earned a spot on the USSR's 1991 World Championship team. In Indianapolis, Liukin contributed to his team's gold medal and individually he placed third in the all-around competition.

With the fall of the Soviet Union, Liukin opted to move his wife, former Soviet rhythmic gymnast Anna Kotchneva, and daughter Nastia to the United States. Shortly after the move, Liukin attempted a comeback while training and coaching in New Orleans, Louisiana. At the 1993 Championships in Birmingham, England, Liukin was in the running for a medal. Instead of playing it safe though, Liukin attempted his infamous triple back. Unfortunately, he put his hands down. The fall dropped him from medal contention to sixth place. 

Liukin, in suspense watching one of his gymnasts at the 2000 US Classic

After completely retiring from competitive gymnastics, he co-opened World Olympic Gymnastics Academy (WOGA) in Plano, Texas (a Dallas suburb) on February 1, 1994. His business partner is longtime friend Evgeny Marchenko, a five time sports acrobatics World Champion! In part, their goal was to raise the level of gymnastics in the United States through a well designed team of national and international coaches. Placing great importance on international competition, WOGA hosts two annual international invitationals: the Valeri Liukin Invitational for boys and the Plano Classic for girls. The latter featured 2000 Junior European medallists Anna Pavlova (RUS),  Natalia Serobaba (UKR), and Maria Zasipkina (RUS).

Liukin and Marchenko's plan seems to be working. WOGA has produced over 100 state and regional Champions, and boasts three junior U.S. national team members and two senior U.S. national team members. Already hyped because of their strong junior elite program, WOGA was catapulted into the spotlight when Vanessa Atler, the 1997 co-National champion, chose to move to Plano to join the program.

Liukin coached his daughter Nastia to the 2008 Olympic all-around title!

2000-2009. This page was created on August 17, 2000 and last updated August 2009.

 

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