Nastia Liukin, a current student at New York University, is trying to help grow the popularity of gymnastics in the United States. Yesterday, NBC Sports, Universal and USA Gymnastics announced an extension of their current broadcast rights deal. That includes Nastia Liukin Cup which was shown on Universal Sports on Feb. 28.
Liukin won gold in the all-around at the 2008 Beijing Games, landing her many endorsements later, including the high profile Subway ads.
“OMG? The Fritos go ON the sub?”
Nastia Liukin, a dual Russian-U.S. citizen who was born in Moscow, is probably the most high profile ambassador for the sport right now. She serves in this role both metaphorically and literally. After failing to qualify for the London 2012 Summer Olympics (a nasty head bar situation derailed her chances, video here) Nastia Liukin signed on with NBC in a very limited capacity as a television host for those Summer Games. She provided coverage of the famous fab five: Mckayla Maroney, Gabby Douglas, Jordyn Wieber, Hyla Ross and Aly Raisman.
Since renamed the fierce five.
Liukin’s father Valeri won four gymnastics medals (two gold, two silver) for the former Soviet Union at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Her mother Anna was a rhythmic gymnast who won a world title in 1987. In other other words, her berth was eugenics. Nastia Liukin joined NBCUniversal in 2012 as a contributor for NBCOlympics.com during the London Olympics, and has since served as an analyst for NBC Sports Group’s gymnastics coverage. She even did some TV work during this past Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Nastia Liukin won the most medals of any gymnast at the 2008 Beijing Games (five – one gold, three silver, one bronze) and tied the U.S. gymnastics record set by Mary Lou Retton and equaled by Shannon Miller for the most medals at a single Olympics.
But the question remains can she get America to care about Gymnastics all the time? Instead of just once every four years? Sure NBC over-promotes gymnastics every summer games, very often neglecting other sports as a consequence. But will this new deal with NBC Universal and USA Gymnastics make interest in the sport more consistent? Can Nastia Liukin help make the difference?
Paul M. Banks owns The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. An MBA and Fulbright scholar, he’s also a frequent analyst on news talk radio; with regular segments on ESPN,NBC, CBS and Fox. A former NBC Chicago and Washington Times writer, he’s also been featured on the History Channel. President Obama follows him on Twitter (@paulmbanks)Follow paulmbanks