Nastia Liukin Wants to Empower Young Athletes

The Olympic gymnast cofounded a social network platform that is creating a new landscape

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Nastia Liukin / Sarah Jacobs

Since rising to prominence with an all-around gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics, Nastia Liukin has never left the picture. She built a second career as an entrepreneur and philanthropist while remaining visible in her sport: She founded the Nastia Liukin Cup, a prominent junior and senior gymnastics event, and is a commentator for national gymnastics broadcasts. With her social media app Grander—a platform Liukin founded in 2016 for young female gymnasts—she’s hoping to give young female athletes in any sport the mentorship they need.

No matter what your hustle is—whether it's social media or a small business—Liukin advises an approach that instinctively feels right. “You have to go in a direction that you love and that’s also authentic to yourself,” Liukin told ONE37pm podcast host Kal Elsebai in a conversation last year. “For me, it was super important to find the right group of people that were going to help bring that vision to life.”

While Grander’s user base is currently young female athletes, Liukin hopes to expand Grander across different categories. “Instagram is great, but beyond liking, retweeting or posting something, there’s no real connection,” Liukin said. “So we created [Grander] to really create a global community to inspire the next generation of female athletes, entrepreneurs, founders, scientists, lawyers. We’re starting with athletes in gymnastics, but we’re going to hit all the verticals. It’s a place to connect but also to be inspired.”

The growth of Grander represents an interesting intersection that’s getting more attention lately: Platforms that connect athletes not only to their fans but also to other athletes (including potential mentors). The increasing popularity of MasterClass-style tutorials is another consideration; applications in this space are racing to configure the right balance for their offerings. 

"We’ve made such tremendous progress in the last six months,” Liukin said. “Building a team of employees around you that not only shares your vision but you can trust and are as committed as you are—that’s been the pivotal moment for us."

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