Aged 44 and readying for her eighth Olympics in Tokyo, Uzbek gymnast Oksana Chusovitina makes light of her record-breaking survival in a sport dominated by teen prodigies.
“I love gymnastics. I tell myself: why not train and perform while you still can?” Chusovitina said during a recent interview in Tashkent. “If I’d stopped, I think I would have strongly regretted it.”
But while the desire to compete still burns in Chusovitina, she said she has given her word to her family, whom she calls her “strongest motivation”, that the Tokyo Games this year will be her “last Olympics”.
Chusovitina started her career competing for the USSR but after it collapsed she got her first taste of the Olympics at Barcelona in 1992 in a team representing the ex-Soviet states.
There, she scooped team gold but she had to wait another 16 years — and four Games — for an individual Olympic medal.
That came when she won silver on the vault in Beijing in 2008. At that point, Chusovitina was representing Germany, after moving there in 2002 to get her son Alisher treatment for leukaemia that proved successful. But Tokyo will be her fifth Olympics representing her Central Asian homeland of Uzbekistan — a nation of 33 million where she is so revered that she has featured on postage stamps.—AP