Oksana Chusovitina gets standing ovation as she says goodbye after eight Olympics

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USA TODAY 25 July, 2021 - 07:18am 43 views

Who is the 46 year old Olympic gymnast?

46-year-old gymnast Oksana Chusovitina got a standing ovation after competing at eighth Olympics. Gymnast Oksana Chusovitina competed at the Tokyo Olympics for Uzbekistan - her eighth Olympics. Business Insider India46-year-old gymnast Oksana Chusovitina got a standing ovation after competing at eighth Olympics

Gymnastics: At 46, Chusovitina bids farewell, again, after 8th Games

Rappler 25 July, 2021 - 07:46am

Five years before Simone Biles was born, Oksana Chusovitina was already an Olympic gold medallist in a sport whose brightest stars often fade early, their bodies battered by years of gruelling training.

At 46, the Uzbek gymnast has defied all odds to compete at her eighth Olympic Games in Tokyo but following the opening day of the women's competition, she bid a tearful farewell after failing to make the cut for the vault final.

With ticket-paying fans barred from the arena due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Chusovitina missed out being given a rousing farewell from thousands of cheering fans but she was nevertheless moved by the standing ovation she received on Sunday, July 25, from the coaches and fellow gymnasts who hailed her extraordinary career.

"These were tears of joy because so many people were supporting me," said Chusovitina, adding that she would have loved to have ended her career in the presence of spectators.

Despite the disappointment on missing out on the vault final – the only apparatus she has been competing on in recent years – Chusovitina said her life-long accomplishments outweighed her result in Tokyo.

"I had been preparing for things to end here, but it's impossible to be fully ready for ending your career," she said.

Chusovitina become the Soviet all-around champion at 13 and the world champion on floor in 1991. She won gold in the team event at the 1992 Barcelona Games and silver in the vault in Beijing 16 years later when she had temporarily switched her allegiance to Germany.

Chusovitina's career also embodies the political upheaval that rocked the Soviet Union. After competing under the Soviet flag, she went on to represent the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Unified Team, and her native Uzbekistan after the Soviet collapse.

She later competed for Germany, where she moved to seek treatment for her son's leukaemia, before returning to compete for Uzbekistan.

Chusovitina said her longevity had been fuelled by an intense passion for gymnastics. At the 2012 London Olympics she had announced her retirement, only to change her mind just 24 hours later.

"There is no secret," said the Uzbek, who had made it into the vault final at the Rio Olympics five years ago. "I just love gymnastics and no one ever forced me to do it. I do it with pleasure."

Chusovitina's grit and ability to adapt to changing times has awed the gymnastics community and she has often proved that age is no barrier to succeed in the sport.

"No words to describe how impressive that is," Aly Raisman, a six-time Olympic medallist, wrote on Twitter ahead of Chusovitina's performance. "Forever an icon."

Now done with gymnastics, Chusovitina said she was looking forward to devoting more time to her family and opening a sports club in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan.

But for now, she just plans to relax in the sauna and wear a nice dress on Sunday night to celebrate her incredible career.

"My time in gymnastics dragged on, now there isn't much time left," she said with a chuckle. – Rappler.com

The Ageless Wonder: Oksana Chusovitina

Sports Illustrated 24 July, 2021 - 07:33am

On Sunday, Uzbekistan’s Oksana Chusovitina will compete at the Tokyo Olympics at age 46, or approximately 847 in equestrian years. When Chusovitina was born in 1975, it was the era of 8-track tapes and Magic 8-balls. Nobody was dispensing PEDs, but PEZ dispensers were everywhere. And nobody outside of Onesti, Romania, had heard of Nadia Comaneci, who was a year away from her first Olympics. But out from the age of rotary phones and bellbottoms flipped Chusovitina, a prodigy before 10, a junior champ at 13 and the world champion on floor in 1991. She won gold in the team competition at the Barcelona Games a year later.

Think a three-year career as an elite gymnast is about right? Chusovitina’s has lasted three decades. In that time, her nomadic allegiances have changed as often as her sport. She competed for the Soviet Union, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Unified Team, her native Uzbekistan, her adopted home of Germany and now Uzbekistan again. She won medals at the Asian Games 24 years apart (Hiroshima in 1994; Jakarta in 2018), including at least one on each of the four apparatuses in her sport. In between, she won vault medals at four different European Championships and amassed 11 world medals, including vault silvers at ages 16 and 36. She has had five skills named for her and her eighth Olympic appearance is the most of any female gymnast in history. “My mother said I was too fragile for gymnastics,” she says.” So mothers don’t know everything.”

At a press conference at the Sydney Games, Chusovitina dismissed suggestions that she was too old for the sport. “Why am I still competing?” she once said. “Well, if you are asking, it is none of your business.” That was 21 years ago. She also suggested the staying power came from her husband Bakhodir Kurbanov, a two-time Olympian in Greco-Roman wrestling. “I don’t want him thinking he’s tougher than me,” she said. Since then, Chusovitina endured operations on her back, a shoulder and an ankle, and was done with gymnastics more often than Elizabeth Taylor was done with husbands. (Chusovitina says, again, that these Olympics will be her last.) As years passed and the trophy case fattened, the publicity also helped Chusovitina raise money for the family’s medical bills. Her son, Alisher, was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2002. He is 22 now, in better health and older than most of his mother’s competitors.

“Each day brings new blessings and new inspiration,” she says. Ask if her head tells her she has over-extended her welcome, she says simply, “Yes, but you know the mind and heart are in different places. Didn’t you not study biology?”

Chusovitina will only compete in her vault specialty in Tokyo, an option that didn’t exist when was first on the national team and every gymnast competed on every apparatus. To be fair, an older competitor can maintain a higher ranking on the vault, because most gymnasts do not actually contest it as an individual event. In both team and all-around competitions, gymnasts perform a single vault for a single score. Those who choose to make themselves eligible for individual medals on that apparatus must execute a second vault, distinctive enough from the first that it comes from a different family or category of vaults, with five families to choose from. One couldn’t do, say, a full-twisting layout Yurchenko vault—with a round-off before the horse—and then simply add an extra half twist in order to create a second vault. Chusovitina keeps a front handspring and Tsukahara—a quarter turn onto the horse—vault in her bag of tricks. The skills are not in the same league as Biles’s, but they are consistent enough that Chusovitina’s execution scores have kept her competitive over changing eras.

Evan the apparatus itself was different when she started. In 2001, the Federation International de Gymnastique (FIG), the sport’s international governing body, changed the dimensions from a traditional vaulting horse—a straight horizontal platform for women; a straight vertical platform for men—to a vaulting table, sloped with additional surface area to allow for more secure hand placement and therefore less hesitation and more abandon, quite apart from the enhanced athletic skills of the gymnasts—in sum, a sure recipe for propulsion.

The scoring system was overhauled, too. The perfect 10, a standard no gymnast had ever reached at an Olympics when Chusovitina was born, had become so commonplace that even with more demanding codes of points each quadrennium, gymnasts were achieving perfect or near-perfect marks too frequently by the time each Olympics arrived. In 2006, the FIG amended the system to include separate scores for content and execution. If Chusovitina started with a base of 6.2 for her vault, she’d need an execution score well above eight on each vault to reach the finals. A 9.9 may be easily recognizable as exceptionally good, but what does a 14,265 look like?

Romania’s Marian Dragulescu, another ageless wonder, is entered in the men’s competition at age 40. Like Chusovitina, Dragulescu competed as an all-arounder, but then gravitated over time to individual events, in his case the complementary disciplines of the vault and floor exercise. He has won world titles on each, but none of his three Olympic medals were golds. Still, men tend to peak later than women in the sport.

Chusovitina has flown over the generational divide in her sport. At this point, a medal would be a long shot, especially with the likes of reigning champ Biles and U.S. specialist Jade Carey in the competition. Thanks to Chusovitina, it will at least be a competition for the aged, if not for the ages. Should she qualify among the top eight vaulters (maximum two per country) on Sunday, Chusovitina will compete in the finals a week later, indifferent to the internal clock that stopped running years ago.

“Gymnastics has enough numbers,” she says. “I don’t need to look at my age.”

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