Nastia Liukin on Why She Thinks Simone Biles Is ‘Better Than Ever’ (Exclusive)

Nastia Liukin is one of the few people who knows what the five athletes on the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team are about to experience in Paris at the 2024 Summer Games later this month.

“You’re part of this family forever, and no matter how many years pass, it’s like there’s a common appreciation and respect for one another based upon you knowing exactly what it takes to get to where they are right now,” the retired gymnast, 34, tells PEOPLE. “I’m so grateful for what the sport and the Olympics gave me, these sisters that I have forever. And I certainly feel that same way now, just being an older sister.”

Liukin, who won a gold medal for Team USA at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, caught up with PEOPLE recently while speaking about her new collaboration with Recess Pickleball. The five-time Olympic medalist is teaming up with the brand to launch a collection of pickleball paddles inspired by the 2024 Summer Games, which Liukin says she’ll attend to cheer on her legacy teammates in Simone Biles, Suni Lee, Jade Carey, Jordan Chiles and Hezly Rivera.

Led by Biles — the 27-year-old, four-time Olympic gold medalist who is competing in her third Summer Games — Team USA is looking to climb back to the top of the gymnastics world after claiming silver in Tokyo.

Biles withdrew from the 2020 Games while dealing with the “twisties,” bringing athletes’ mental health to the forefront of discussion around the sports world. She returned to the sport last year, winning four gold medals at World Championships and establishing herself as the most decorated gymnast in the history of the sport with 37 medals in the Olympics and World Championships combined.

“It’s mind boggling that she can continue to be better,” Liukin says. “Just the amount of years that she’s continued to be on top and continued to be better. I’m just very, very proud of all of them and especially her for really just being there on her own terms. You know, she has nothing to prove. If she walked away, people would still be proud, but I think for her being there, it’s a personal journey and I think it’s a personal kind of accomplishment. I’m really proud of her.”

Nastia Liukin.

Recess Pickleball


Liukin believes Biles is “truly better than she ever has been.” 

“And I think that in itself is almost hard to believe if you weren’t watching,” Liukin continues. “It’s very rare. It’s rare to continue, and regardless of the expectations and the weight of the world on you, to just continue doing a sport like that, it’s very grueling mentally and physically. So then take everything else on top of that and it’s hard to put into words, because then you look at it from a technical standpoint of gymnastics and watching her gymnastics, it’s like, how are you doing this? I’m in awe.”

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE’s free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer​​, from celebrity news to compelling human interest stories. 

Liukin adds that Biles has been “such a great team leader” for younger competitors joining the fold, like Rivera, the 16-year-old joining Team USA for her first Olympics. Team USA’s predicted lineup for the Olympics saw an adjustment after several probable Olympians, including Shilese Jones, Skye Blakely and Kayla DiCello suffered injuries at the U.S. Gymnastics Trials late last month, forcing them out of the competition.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Liukin says. “You never want to see that ever, but especially at big trials. That is probably the worst feeling when you’ve made it that far, and all three of the athletes that got injured could have made that Olympic team. I just pray that they’re able to obviously physically recover from that, but also mentally and emotionally. I can’t imagine how they’re feeling.”

Simone Biles.

Nikolas Liepins/Anadolu via Getty 


Thus Biles’ veteran experience at the Summer Games will prove vital for Team USA, Liukin believes, helping navigate an already unexpected course for the women’s squad. But regardless of who was to stand at Biles’ side for the upcoming Summer Games in Paris, the retired gymnast is confident Team USA will find success by the time the Olympics end on Aug. 11.

“At the end of the day, I’ve always said that it truly is like you could put any team out there, you could put 10 different people in the lineup and still come out on top,” Liukin says. “It just goes to show the depth that this country has in the sport.”

Bettle Midler Gives Update ‘First Wives Club’ Reunion Movie (Exclusive)

Bettle Midler Gives Update ‘First Wives Club’ Reunion Movie (Exclusive)

The First Wives Club sadly never got a sequel, but the movie’s stars — Bette Midler, Diane Keaton and Goldie ...
Alec Baldwin, Hilaria Baldwin Walk Red Carpet After ‘Rust’ Case Dismissed

Alec Baldwin, Hilaria Baldwin Walk Red Carpet After ‘Rust’ Case Dismissed

Alec and Hilaria Baldwin stepped out together for their first red carpet appearance following the dismissal of the actor's recent ...
Morne Morkel will not go with Team India on Sri Lanka tour, Sairaj Bahutule interim bowling coach IND vs SL

Morne Morkel will not go with Team India on Sri Lanka tour, Sairaj Bahutule interim bowling coach IND vs SL

IND vs SL: Team India has taken an important decision before the ODI and T20 series against Sri Lanka. Team ...
Drew Sidora Says Her Kids Are ‘Thriving’ amid Her Divorce (Exclusive)

Drew Sidora Says Her Kids Are ‘Thriving’ amid Her Divorce (Exclusive)

Drew Sidora says her kids are navigating her divorce from Ralph Pittman with an impressive show of "resilience." The Real ...
Economic Survey 2024 before Budget know important points to note about it

Economic Survey 2024 before Budget know important points to note about it

Economic Survey 2024: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is going to present the first budget of the third term of the ...
Coldplay Dedicates ‘Everglow’ to Taylor Swift at Germany Concert

Coldplay Dedicates ‘Everglow’ to Taylor Swift at Germany Concert

Coldplay is feelng for the Swifties in Germany! While performing in concert in Düsseldorf, Germany, on Saturday, July 20, Coldplay's ...
India women beat UAE by 78 runs Women's Asia Cup T20 2024 Harmanpreet Kaur Deepti Sharma

India women beat UAE by 78 runs Women's Asia Cup T20 2024 Harmanpreet Kaur Deepti Sharma

Women's Asia Cup T20 2024: India won the second consecutive match in the Women's Asia Cup T20 2024. Team India ...
Google Maps vs ola maps comparison how both are different from each other update features data source know details here

Google Maps vs ola maps comparison how both are different from each other update features data source know details here

Google Maps Vs Ola Maps: Ola Electric has recently severed its ties with Google Maps. The company has started its ...
How to Delete and block your UPI ID After your phone stolen follow the all steps here

How to Delete and block your UPI ID After your phone stolen follow the all steps here

How to Block UPI ID: Ever since UPI has come, almost everyone does more online transactions than offline transactions. The ...
Hardik Pandya's bowling fitness test in Vijay Hazare Trophy to be monitored ahead of Champions Trophy 2025

Hardik Pandya's bowling fitness test in Vijay Hazare Trophy to be monitored ahead of Champions Trophy 2025

Hardik Pandya Champions Trophy 2025: Hardik Pandya is troubled due to personal issues. Team India has given him a chance ...

Leave a Comment