Daily Illini talks with Jonathan Horton, Nastia Liukin


Erica Magda

U.S. Olympians Jonathan Horton and Nastia Liukin came to Champaign on Wednesday night for a stop on the 2008 Tour of Gymnastics Superstars. Following their performance at the Olympic Games in August, several members of the U.S. gymnastics delegation are touring the country, performing in 37 different cities.

In Beijing, Horton helped lead the U.S. men’s gymnastics team to a surprising bronze medal finish in team competition. The Houston, Texas, native also won a silver medal on the high bar event and finished ninth in the men’s all-around competition.

Liukin, a Dallas native, led the U.S. women’s team to a silver medal but won gold in the individual all-around. She also won silver medals on the uneven bars and balance beam, and a bronze medal on floor exercise.

The Daily Illini had a chance to catch up with the two Olympians following Wednesday’s performance.


photo DI multimedia


Olympic gymnasts perform at Assembly Hall

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Daily Illini: How’s the Tour been going so far for you guys?

Jonathan Horton: It’s been great. It’s been a lot of fun. It’s really just been a kind of reward for everything we’ve done in the Olympics and the success that we’ve had. It’s been a great cast and crew of people, and it’s been one of the most fun and greatest three months I’ve ever had.

DI: How is it, though, being away from home for so long?

JH: You know, that’s the hard part. As Justin(Spring) is now, I’m also engaged. I’ve been dating my fiance Haley for four and a half years now, so that’s always hard, being apart from her for a month for the Olympics and three months for this. It’s been four months since I’ve been with her. I miss my friends and family, but this is maybe a once-in-a-lifetime thing. You never know if you’ll get an opportunity like this again. This is just a great time, and I’ll be home before I know it.

DI: Do you keep your medals at home with your family?

JH: Actually, my parents have them right now. I didn’t want to bring them with me on tour to risk anything happening to them. When I get home, I’ll probably get my medals back from them and put them on display somewhere in my room or in the basement somewhere.

DI: What’s in store for you following the tour?

JH: I’ve got a few more shows to go to. I’ve got one in the Netherlands and then one in South Dakota. So, you know, I’m going to go home and rest up a little bit, and I’ve got some more shows to do, but after that it’s strict training, trying to get ready for the 2012 Olympics.

DI: How’s the Tour going?

Nastia Liukin: It’s good. It’s coming to an end. I’m kind of ready to go home, but at the same time, it’s kind of sad. We’ve been together for so long and we have like nine shows left out of 37. It’s kind of crazy, but it’s fun.

DI: Is it hard being away from home for so long?

NL: A little bit. I mean now I’m ready to go home, but it’s fun being with everyone and being able to tour the entire country. But, yeah, I’m definitely ready to go home.

DI: What has been your favorite venue or performance thus far?

NL: Well, I’m from Dallas, so Dallas was pretty cool because it was my hometown and it was at American Airlines (Arena) and it was a really big arena so the numbers were really good. And then Washington, D.C. – I had my birthday on the 30th so that was cool because everyone sang happy birthday to me.

DI: Are you keeping your medals back home in Dallas or with you on the road?

NL: Yeah, I don’t travel with them anymore. I did at first, but it was hard going through security because I travel a lot outside the Tour.

DI: This entire year, what’s been the most defining moment for you?

NL: Winning the all-around.

DI: What has it been like becoming one of the faces of U.S. Gymnastics?

NL: I don’t know. It’s an honor, I guess, to be kind of known as that since I feel like I’ve been working for so long and my dreams finally came true, and so now I’m finally able to enjoy it.

DI: What’s up next for you?

NL: Training again. Worlds are in 2009, and the Championships are in Dallas in 2009, so I guess that’s what I’ll be getting ready for.

DI: What about 2012?

NL: (Laughs) I don’t know, that’s a long way away. But we’ll see, I mean it’s not out of the question, but I’m going to take it one step at a time.

DI: Gossip Girls is one of your favorite shows in which you have an upcoming cameo. How did the taping go?

NL: It was really cool.