Olympics

Olympic champ Liukin still unsure about 2012

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NEW YORK (AP)

Nastia Liukin visited NYU on Tuesday morning, eager to move on to new goals in life such as college.

Then again, competing in another Olympics would push those plans back only a year.

The gymnastics gold medalist took part in a U.S. Olympic Committee event Tuesday night celebrating that the London Games were one year and one day away. She's one of the American star athletes promoting tourism to Britain, but the 21-year-old is just not sure yet whether she'll be there in 2012 as a competitor or spectator.

Liukin plans to pick by the end of this fall.

''It's starting to all get real,'' the reigning all-around champion told The Associated Press. ''It's like, `All right, you've got to figure everything out, because tomorrow's exactly a year.' It's a little overwhelming trying to make that decision. But whatever I decide to do, I have to accept that.''

From one sentence to the next, Liukin will veer from sounding like an athlete ready to retire from elite competition to one determined to go to another games.

''Five medals and the Olympic all-around gold medal, there's not much more to ask for,'' she said.

Then a moment later: ''But it's that passion that burns inside of you to try to go to another Olympics. Once you're there, you just want to go back, and you want to be part of the U.S. team again.''

Liukin feels she has unfinished business in at least one corner of her sport: The American squad settled for silver in Beijing in 2008.

Her choices are a good problem to have, but Liukin concedes that with her ultra-focused personality, sometimes that's easy to forget.

''I'm the person that likes to plan out every single day and know what I'm going to be doing in five years,'' she said. ''Whereas, like, OK, you don't know what you're going to be doing next month.''

In a sport where the role of judges means the final result is not totally in gymnasts' control, Liukin has to have faith that she can return to gold-medal form with less than a year of full-time training.

''You always worry and you always think, `Oh, I wish I would've had another day, another week, another month,''' she said.

She's been home all of three days in July because of her many commitments. Liukin was in Korea two weeks ago as the athlete rep for the International Gymnastics Federation. Unlike some other sports, it's almost impossible to train while on the road. She got up early Tuesday to go to the gym to run and work on her strength and flexibility, but that's not quite the same as doing flips on the balance beam.

''For the past three years, my lifestyle has changed dramatically,'' Liukin said. ''To be able to go back to training seven hours a day, six days a week, would be a little bit hard at first, and saying no to really cool and unique opportunities that I've had a chance to do.

''But the end product of being at the Olympic Games and wearing that U.S. flag on your sleeve and on the back of your jacket is totally worthwhile.''

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