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Fourth-Place Medal

Beijing champ Nastia Liukin plans return for 2012

Fourth-Place Medal

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Nastia Liukin, the five-time medalist and all-around champion in Beijing, has announced that she will try for a comeback to compete in the London Olympics next summer. She shared the news while with the U.S. at the World Championships in Tokyo. Though she has an impressive track record, Liukin has a long road to go before qualifying again.

"But I think that I just owe it to myself to try, to give it another shot," she said to the Associated Press. "I'm 100 percent committed to trying to make this dream of mine come true. For me, Beijing was more of a destiny I felt like, and London would be more like a dream."

Liukin hasn't competed since Beijing, though she has been training full-time since early this summer. Instead of doing the all-around, Liukin will just focus on the balance beam and uneven bars. Those are her best events, as she took silver in both the bars and beam in Beijing.  Avoiding the floor exercise and vault will also save her body from taking the pounding that those two events bring.

[ Related: Liukin's uneven performance at Olympic team qualifier ]

Avoiding injury is a key concern for any gymnast, but especially so for older athletes. Liukin will be 22 by the Olympics, which is over the hill in gymnastics. Three of Liukin's teammates from Beijing are working to make the team in London, but have hit setbacks because of injury. Shawn Johnson's foot injury and Chelsie Memmel's shoulder injury kept them from even traveling to the world championships. Alicia Sacramone tore her achilles tendon while practicing this week in Tokyo.

Injuries are far from the only thing that will stand in Liukin's way, as a crop of youngsters have made their name since Beijing. Jordan Wieber just turned 16, the age required to compete at the senior level in gymnastics, and won the U.S. all-around championship. Aly Raisman has matured into a gymnast that the U.S. can count on for big scores. Gabrielle Douglas, a training partner of Johnson's, excels on the bars and beam.

What Liukin has going for her is that the bars are a weak point for the U.S. Memmel has two world medals in bars, and Douglas and Wieber both put up big enough scores in the preliminary rounds at worlds to qualify for the event finals. Outside of those gymnasts, the U.S. does not have many people who can tally large numbers within the team competition. Liukin promised that her father and coach Valeri Liukin is putting together a "crazy" routine for her with plenty of difficulty to earn a high score.

Liukin's first competition will likely be the CoverGirl Classic next spring. After that, she'll compete in Visa Championships and Olympic team trials in June. Those events will be the first time fans will see if she has returned to her gold-medal winning form.

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