The first country she represented doesn’t even exist anymore.
If you’ve ever thought about pursuing a lifelong dream, but haven’t tried because you told yourself you’re too old, here’s a story that’ll kill that excuse in an instant. On August 7th, 41-year-old Uzbek Olympic gymnast Oksana Chusovitina earned a score of 14.999 on the vault, successfully qualifying for the finals at the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Rio. This is an amazing accomplishment in a sport where most of her competition is half her age.
Although the gymnastics world can’t wait to watch her perform in the finals, Chusovitina, who’s known as “Chuso” by her fellow gymnasts, made history before she even sprung off the vault. By simply participating in the 2016 games she became the oldest women to ever have done so. The Rio games are her seventh after her debut in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona where she competed for the Soviet Union. After the fall of the Soviet Union, she began representing the republic in which she was born, Uzbekistan. Chusovitina would compete for Germany at the ‘08 and ‘12 games after moving there while her son, Alisher, underwent treatment for acute lymphocytic leukemia. His cancer would ultimately go into remission after six years of treatment.
After the London Olympics in 2012, Chusovitina announced her retirement, but it didn’t last long. “The next day I woke up, and I was lying down in my bed and thinking, ‘I didn’t accomplish everything I wanted to accomplish and I still feel I can do a little bit more.’ And that’s why I started training for my next Olympics. Because I still feel I can do more.” And given the fact that she’s moved on to the vault finals, she clearly did have more to prove.
Chusovitina will compete in the vault finals on Sunday, August 14th. Here is her successful performance from August 7th that vaulted her into the finals.
Correction: This post previously identified Chusovitina as the oldest Olympian to ever compete. She is in fact the oldest female gymnast to ever compete.