By Kate Guerra
With another Nastia Liukin Supergirl Cup in the record books, it is easy to focus on who placed where, who shined on certain events and who will be moving on to a great college or the national team. But through all of the excitement, it is important to recognize the mission and purpose behind the Supergirl Cup, and how it impacted many young gymnasts’ lives in just a matter of days.
None of it would be possible, of course, without its namesake, Nastia Liukin. After making a name for herself as a gymnast, Olympian and role model, this event is one of the ways Liukin is giving back to the sport.
Most of the girls competing had never been in a podium event before. Most of them had never been on national television, and these are all things they will have to deal with at the elite level. Liukin realized this and hoped to use this event as a way of exposing them to those pressures.
“I definitely think that these girls, and even the girls that didn’t quite qualify for this competition, are our future,” said Liukin, who has nine World and five Olympic medals to her credit. “That’s the future of USA Gymnastics. Aca A| It’s very important to give these girls the fundamentals and the beginning of that core for them, and give them experience from an early age.”
Throughout the day before the event, gymnasts had several opportunities to interact with Liukin, including a training session, luncheon, and a special breakfast on Saturday morning. Liukin specifically requested meeting alone with the gymnasts after the event had ended, something that they did do last year. Liukin felt that personal one-on-one time with the girls would allow them to open up to her more than they would around their coaches.
Grace Williams, a 14-year-old freshman, won the 2011 Supergirl Cup crown. She placed first in the all-around, balance beam and floor exercise. But believe it or not, she did not come to the event focused on winning.
“I just came into this competition to have fun and do my best,” said Williams at the conclusion of the event. “I didn’t know I’d win anything. I’m just a little overwhelmed right now and taking it all in.”
There are not many competitions in modern day sport where the athletes come in for the experience rather than the trophy, but the Supergirl Cup is definitely one of them. This attitude is well-represented by the Supergirl S-shield that symbolizes the competition.
“[Supergirl S-shield] is such an empowering symbol,” Liukin said. “I think that when you think of Superman or Supergirl, he or she can do anything if they work hard and put their minds to it, and that’s what I’m trying to encourage to the girls.”
And in the end, that is exactly what was communicated. Liukin epitomizes hard work and dedication, and who else better to mentor and guide “the future” as they make their way through the challenges? Whether or not the gymnasts who competed in the Nastia Liukin Supergirl Cup move on to be college national champions or Olympians does not matter. What matters to Liukin is that the girls know that they could.
For more information on the 2011 Nastia Liukin Supergirl Cup, visit NastiaLiukinSupergirlCup.com.