Olympics: Chusovitina vaults to 7th Games at age 41

Oksana Chusovitina is training for a record-breaking seventh Olympic Games that will see the Uzbek star become the oldest woman gymnast to compete at the age of 41.
Oksana Chusovitina is training for a record-breaking seventh Olympic Games that will see the Uzbek star become the oldest woman gymnast to compete at the age of 41.PHOTO: OKSANA CHUSOVITINA/FACEBOOK

TASHKENT • Oksana Chusovitina is training for a record-breaking seventh Olympic Games that will see the Uzbek star become the oldest woman gymnast to compete at the age of 41.

The vault specialist's qualification for Rio extended a staggering career that has seen her represent three different countries over a quarter of a century.

Chusovitina, whose son is as old as many of her rivals competing for medals in Brazil, said she does not deprive herself to maintain her muscular 1.5m, 43kg frame.

"I just train and perform because doing so brings me pleasure," she told Agence France-Presse during a break in recent training at the vast Gymnastics Palace in Tashkent.

Chusovitina started her career competing for the Soviet Union at the 1991 World Championships. After it collapsed, she went to the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona with the Commonwealth of Independent States, a unified team of former Soviet states.

There she scooped gold in the gymnastics team event but she had to wait another 16 years for an individual Olympic medal.

That came when she won silver on the vault in Beijing in 2008. By then Chusovitina was representing Germany, a country she moved to in 2002 to get her son Alisher, born in 1999, successfully treated for leukaemia.

Now she is back representing her Central Asian homeland of Uzbekistan - a nation of 30 million people where she is so revered that she has featured on postage stamps.

"It is too early to make any sort of predictions," Chusovitina added when asked about her medal hopes.

"Gymnastics has become much more difficult, but at the same time much more dramatic and beautiful."

While Chusovitina, who has also competed in 10 world championships, might be coy about her achievements, her coach Nikolai Pak is much more forthcoming as she gears up to break the record for Olympic appearances by a gymnast.

"She has raised the bar," Pak said.

"Modern gymnastics is changing rapidly and Oksana is right up there with it. She doesn't stand still, and is always developing herself."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2016, with the headline 'Chusovitina vaults to 7th Games at age 41'. Print Edition | Subscribe