Caitlin O’Kane – CBS News
Oksana Chusovitina, a gymnast from Uzbekistan, competed in her eighth Olympic Games this week. The record-setting 46-year-old received a standing ovation after competing in what she said would be her last Olympics.
The Olympian has attended the games since the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, representing the Commonwealth of Independent states after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. That team, also known as the Unified Team, comprised representatives from former Soviet republics.
Both the men’s and women’s Unified teams earned team all-around gold medals in gymnastics at the Barcelona games.
Chusovitina later represented Uzbekistan and Germany at subsequent Summer Olympics.
She became a German citizen in 2006 and won a silver medal for the country at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. She had moved to Germany in 2002, when her son Alisher was diagnosed with leukemia and received treatment there, according to the Olympics website.
In 2013, she began competing for Uzbekistan again. Her husband, Bakhodir Kurbanov, is also an Olympian, representing Uzbekistan in Greco-Roman wrestling in 1996 and 2000.
During the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Chusovitina became the first gymnast to appear at seven Olympic Games, according to the Olympics website.
Chusovitina also set a record when she won a silver medal at the Asia Games in 2018, becoming the oldest gymnast to medal at the games.
When the 2020 Olympics were postponed due to the pandemic, she vowed to wait and compete the next year. “I want to compete in Tokyo and retire,” she said, according to the Olympics website.
“I am taking it step-by-step to see how far physically my body will take me,” Chusovitina said ahead of the games. “Of course I want to do more, otherwise I would not be training.”
Chusovitina competed with two vaults during the qualifying round in Tokyo and earned an average score of 14.166. Unfortunately, the score was not high enough for her to advance, but her performance received a standing ovation.
Following the event, Chusovitina said she didn’t even look at the scores. “It was really nice. I cried tears of happiness because so many people have supported me for a long time,” she said, according to the International Federation of Gymnastics. “I didn’t look at the results, but I feel very proud and happy. I’m saying goodbye to sports.”
Fellow athletes praised the gymnastics competitor, with the Team USA women’s gymnastics team snapping a photo with her in Tokyo.
“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,'” the team shared on Instagram.
Olympian Aly Raisman, who last competed in the Rio Olympics, shared a video of Oksana Chusovitina from 1992. “This is Oksana Chusovitina 8th Olympics!!” Raisman tweeted.“No words to describe how impressive that is. Forever an icon. Wishing Oksana the best of luck! I’m so excited to watch.”
Chusovitina also posted about her final Olympics. “It was very hard to talk about it, I thought it would be much easier,” she wrote in both Russian and English on Instagram.
She said her sports life had “ups and downs” and “tears of joy and tears of grief, but I don’t regret it for a single minute.”
images via International Gymnastics Federation/Facebook