Gymnastics is an extremely difficult and demanding sport, requiring strength, flexibility, stamina, and balance. As such, the athletes competing at an elite level are generally younger in age. For women’s gymnastics in particular the typical age range is very finite, as Olympic athletes are most often between age 16 and their mid-20’s. Given these demographics, Oksana Chusovitina’s accomplishments in the gymnastics world are quite extraordinary. Chusovitina, who is currently 46 years old, is still competing in 2022! She has competed in eight Olympic games and has represented the Soviet Union, Germany, and Uzbekistan.
Her gymnastics career began in 1982 at the age of seven. By the time she was 13, she won the all-around gold medal at the USSR National Championships (Junior Division). Her first Olympics was in Barcelona in 1992, where she won a team gold medal. She also won a silver medal in vault at the Beijing 2008 Olympics. To date, she has participated in 17 World Championships and has earned 11 medals at Worlds between 1991 and 2011. Throughout her career she has become a vault specialist, with the majority of her medals being earned on this apparatus.
After the London 2012 Olympics, Chusovitina stated that she would be retiring from gymnastics and would spend her time coaching from then on. In London, she had not earned a medal, coming in fifth place in the vault finals. The London Olympics marked her sixth appearance at an Olympic Games. Given how many times she had already been to the Olympics, it is only natural that she would be considering retiring from gymnastics at age 36. However, Chusovitina decided to return to competition, despite her earlier announcement. She went on to train for the Rio 2016 Olympics and broke multiple records by participating in these Games. She officially became the oldest athlete to ever take part in an Olympics at that point (41 years and 2 months), and also became the first athlete to compete in seven consecutive Olympics. She placed seventh on vault in Rio. After the 2016 Olympics, Chusovitina once again announced that she would continue her training for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
In Tokyo, Chusovitina unfortunately did not qualify for the vault finals, coming in 14th place. At this point, she declared that she would be retiring at the culmination of these Olympics. Chusovitina cannot seem to keep herself away from gymnastics though, as she again came out of retirement just a few months after the Tokyo Games. Most recently, she competed in the 2022 Artistic Gymnastics World Cup in Doha, Qatar where she won gold on the vault just this month. She has also stated that she will be training for the upcoming Asian Games in September. It is mesmerizing to watch Chusovitina as she continues on her accomplished and lengthy career. Her commitment to gymnastics and her ability to remain competing at such a high level for so many years is an unprecedented and remarkable achievement. She truly is a gymnastics legend.