While elite athletes, like Simone Biles and McKayla Maroney, make it look easy, gymnastics is one of the hardest sports on the planet – both physically and mentally. It is, therefore, not surprising to hear that most gymnasts retire in their late teens or early 20’s. But don’t tell that to Oksana Chusovitina. The veteran gymnast, who has been in the limelight since winning her first major competition – the USSR’s junior national championships – at age 13, is still going strong at the ripe “old” age of 43!
On August 23, 2018, Chusovitina made headlines again, this time for winning the silver medal in the vault at the 2018 Asian Games held in Indonesia from August 18 to September 2. What’s even more impressive is that the gymnast, who shared the podium with women younger than her 19-year-old son Alisher Kurpanov, missed the gold by one-tenth of a point.
Over the last 30 years, the elite athlete has won a total of 32 medals, including 2 Olympic and 11 world championship medals. She is not only the oldest female Olympic gymnast but also, the only gymnast ever to compete in seven consecutive Olympic Games.
The Gymnastics Hall of Famer has five moves named after her – two on vault, two on uneven bars, and one on floor exercise – in the International Gymnastics’ Code of Points. Chusovitina is one of only two female gymnasts to compete at the Olympics under three different national teams: the Soviet Union, Germany — where she moved for a few years to get her son treatment for leukemia — and her native Uzbekistan.
The incredible gymnast, who now focuses exclusively on the vault, is constantly trying to achieve more. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Chusovitina attempted the “vault of death,” a challenging routine that involves a handspring followed by a double somersault. While she was unable to join the small group of female gymnasts who have successfully completed the exercise, her effort was reflective of the grit and competitive spirit Chusovitina has demonstrated throughout her distinguished gymnastics career.
Not surprisingly, the amazing athlete, who says, “gymnastics keeps me young," has no plans to retire yet! When asked by a reporter if the 2018 Asian Games would be her final tournament, Chusovitina instantly responded, “No! I want to go to Tokyo.” If she qualifies for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan – and we have little doubt she will – Chusovitina, who will be 45, will become the oldest Olympic gymnast in 100 years. She will, however, not be the oldest athlete ever to compete at the Games. That honor belongs to Oscar Swahn of Sweden who was 72 years, 281 days old when he competed at the 1920 Olympics in the sport of shooting.
Resources: Topendsports.com, csmonitor.com, sports.yahoo.com