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Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson, still friends after all these months

August 15, 2008 |  7:31 pm

Nastia Liukin (R) hugs her compatriot Shawn Johnson (L) as China's Yilin Yang (background) looks on during the podium ceremony of the women's individual all-around final of the artistic gymnastics event of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games

One of the "most viewed" stories today on LATimes.com is a two-month old piece about Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson (thank you, Google?).

Written by Diane Pucin, the little feature called "Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin have friendly rivalry" explained that the two gymnasts are the furthest things from infamous rival US skaters, Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding:

Last week when Johnson was forced out of her home gym because of flooding, Liukin text messaged her, expressing concern and wishing Johnson luck. Johnson sent her thanks and signed her text, "Love, Shawn."

"Shawn and Nastia are as different as can be," says teammate Alicia Sacramone, who was captain of last year's world gold medal-winning team. "They are different ages, they care about different stuff, their gymnastics is so different but ultimately they want the U.S. to do well. There's no way we'll have a Tonya-Nancy here."

Kim Zmeskal, who was an Olympic gymnast in 1992 and is a former world champion, has watched Johnson and Liukin practice every month under the watchful eyes of U.S. team coordinator Martha Karolyi at Karolyi's ranch near Houston.

"Of course the girls watch each other," Zmeskal said last month.

"You can see out of the corner of their eyes, every month when they first arrive. They want to see what the other one is doing now."

What they appeared to be watching was each other's moves -- quite closely.

When asked if she could import one of Liukin's qualities into her own gymnastics, Johnson had a quick answer. "I'd love to do her uneven bars. Her one-handed swings, wow."

Liukin has her favorite Johnson move too. "She's doing two and a half twists on her vault," Liukin said. "I'd like to have that."

After the jump, a video interview with gold medal winner Nastia Liukin...

-- Tony Pierce

Photo by Luis Gene/AFP/Getty Images

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