There can’t be a greater example to up and coming gymnasts than the charismatic Oksana Chusovitina. She may have been inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame, but that doesn’t mean her career is over.
The Sporting Legend And Role Model Just Keeps On Going
In fact, at the age of 42 the only woman to have competed in three Olympics for three different nations, is still going strong. She most recently performed on balance beam, floor exercise and vault at World Cup meets back in March. It would also seem Tokyo 2020 is still a realistic target for this disciplined gymnast who has also performed for the old Soviet Union, Germany and her native Uzbekistan in various other events.
Speaking at the induction awards ceremony in the States last weekend she told the assembled throng through her translator, former team-mate and now coach Svetlana Boginskaya: “It seems like this award is for people who retired. In this case, I am not, and you will never be alive until I retire. So keep waiting.”
Her sense of mischief is legendary of course, and she is naturally the only woman to be inducted into this supreme role of honour while still competing. When she arrived at the 2016 Rio Games, she became the first gymnast to compete in seven consecutive Olympics. And she wasn’t just there to make up the numbers either.
Chusovitina qualified to the vault final, where she threw a Produnova (handspring-double front), the hardest vault possible. She’s also won vault medals in an incredible nine World Championships. The Hall of Fame, housed in the Science Museum, Oklahoma, has now chronicled the exploits of 95 individuals from 22 countries.
And for the first time, the entire ceremony was streamed on Facebook LIVE.
In a colourful speech, she added: “I would like to thank my mother for longevity in the sport because she’s the one who didn’t want me to do it,” Chusovitina said Saturday. “I wanted to prove her wrong. With any child, you just want to do the opposite of what your parent tells you. So, thank you, mom. She always wanted for me to be scientist or piano player, or someone that was not an athlete, so thank you, mom, for making me an athlete. And I think when my mom actually will say, “Honey, I’m OK with you being a gymnast, maybe that will be the time where I will stop.”
Tribute To Her Son
Her son was diagnosed with leukaemia in October 2002, but made a full recovery and will turn 18-years-old in November. Her move to Germany was tied to her young son’s diagnosis, so they moved there to receive treatment. She went on: “As a mother, I would like to thank the gymnastics community all over the world. Because of their help, my child in cancer-free. He didn’t take a passion for gymnastics; he is afraid of heights. He is short, like me, but he likes basketball. And he believes he’s going to be a basketball player and be in NBA. He is short, but I don’t want to kill his dreams.”
Chusovitina’s career as an elite gymnast has spanned more than a quarter of a century. She won the USSR Junior Nationals in 1988 and began competing at the international level in 1989 before many of her current rivals were even born.
Chusovitina has also competed in 10 World Championships, three Asian Games and three Goodwill Games. She also holds the record for the most individual world championship medals in a single event (nine, on the vault).
The Petroleum Club also saw three other gymnasts inducted: Japan’s Shun Fujimoto helped Japan to the 1976 Olympic team title competing amazingly with a broken leg, Alexei Nemov, the 2000 Olympic all-around champion from Russia, is 11 months younger than Chusovitina but retired after the 2004 Olympics. She also received a warm welcome along with 2008 Olympic silver medallist Alicia Sacramone from America who retired four years ago.
Supporters and guests covered 15 countries, and it seems fitting the 21st coming of age ceremony should feature the exploits of one, Oksana Chusovitina, perhaps the greatest role model the sport has ever seen.