"1996, when the Magnificent Seven won the gold medal on the team," the gymnast says right away. But it was 2004 that sold her on the Games. "One of my teammates, Carly Patterson, won the all-around gold, and I remember at that point thinking, 'That is what I want to do in four years.'"
And she did. In 2008, Liukin took home five medals, including the gold for the all-around, just like Patterson. She tied gymnastic legends Mary Lou Retton and Shannon Miller for the most medals in a single Olympics.
Now she's hoping to add to her collection.
"I never gave  up completely, but I think for a few years I definitely took time off," Liukin tells PARADE. "Last October was when I really made the decision to go at it 100 percent. I don't want to have any regrets when the end of the Olympics is here."
She'll have her chance soon, when she competes to qualify for the London Games. Trials begin June 28 in San Jose, Calif.
At 22, Liukin is at the older end of the gymnast spectrum (Olympic hopefully Jordyn Wieber, who won the all-around gold medal at world championships last year, is only 16 years old). She knows just how much she has to work to compete.
"This time around, I don't know what will happen," Liukin says. "It makes it more exciting, because every day you know you have to give it everything that you have."
Liukin is one of several 2008 alums who are looking to qualify again this year. Other returning Olympic hopefuls are fellow gymnast Jonathan Horton, runner Allyson Felix, and of course, swimmers Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte.
Lochte and Liukin have been close friends since the last Games, leading many gossip sites to speculate that the two were dating.
"We went to Fashion Week a few years ago and sat next to each other," Liukin says. "Then all of a sudden we were 'dating.' That's always been our ongoing joke. But we're not dating!"
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