It’s hard to say goodbye to something you love, but for 46-year-old gymnast Oksana Chusovitina, she knew it was time.
Chusovitina, who represented Uzbekistan in the Tokyo Olympics, received a standing ovation after competing in her eighth Olympic Games.
Chuso, as she is fondly called by the gymnastics community, is a respected figure in the sport not only for her longevity but also for her excellence. In a sport geared for younger bodies, she has proven that age is just a number.
Chusovitina has competed in the games since the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, where she was a member of the Unified Team that represented the Soviet Union. Both the men’s and women’s Unified teams won all-around gold medals in gymnastics at the time.
She moved to Germany in 2002 when her son, Alisher, was diagnosed with leukemia and received treatment there. Chusovitina became a German citizen in 2006, and to show her gratitude to the country, she represented it in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, where she won a silver medal.
In 2013, she started competing for Uzbekistan again. Her husband, Bakhodir Kurbanov, is also an Olympian who represented the country in Greco-Roman wrestling in 1996 and 2000.
Chusovitina made history during the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro when she became the first gymnast to appear at seven Olympic Games.
She also set a record when she earned a silver medal at the Asia Games in 2018, where she became the oldest gymnast to medal at the games.
Chusovitina has won a total of 11 medals at 17 world championships. She’s also had five moves named after her because she was the first gymnast to perform them at a world championship or Olympics.
When the 2020 Olympics were canceled because of the pandemic, Chusovitina promised to wait and compete the following year before retiring.
“I am taking it step-by-step to see how far physically my body will take me,” she said before the games. “Of course I want to do more, otherwise I would not be training.”
Chusovitina got an average score of 14.166 after competing with two vaults in the qualifying round in Tokyo. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough for her to advance to next week’s final.
Following her performance, competitors and judges in the nearly empty arena rose to their feet, cheering and taking photos of the Olympic star.
But the gymnast didn’t even look at the score following the event.
“It was really nice. I cried tears of happiness because so many people have supported me for a long time,” she said. “I didn’t look at the results, but I feel very proud and happy. I’m saying goodbye to sports.”
Chusovitina is retiring because she wants to spend time with her family and be “a mom and a wife.”
The gymnasts in Tokyo—many of whom were younger than her 22-year-old son—look up to Chusovitina. The Team USA women’s gymnastics team had the lucky chance to snap a photo with the legendary gymnast.
The team posted their picture on Instagram and wrote in the caption:
“The [Team USA] women were lucky enough to get a photo during training with Oksana Chusovitina, as she prepares to compete in her record-extending 8th Olympic Games! As she says, ‘I only got better, like fine wine.’”
Chusovitina also took to Instagram to share her feelings about her final Olympics.
“It was very hard to talk about it, I thought it would be much easier,” she wrote in both English and Russian.
She said that her sports life had its share of “ups and down” and “tears of joy and tears of grief, but I don’t regret it for a single minute.”
We tip our hats off to you, Oksana Chusovitina! Your excellence in gymnastics and genuine love for the sport will never be forgotten.
Take a look back at all of Oksana Chusovitina’s Olympic Routines in the video below.
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