"I think she’s just a miracle.”
August 17, 2012 9:10 AM   Subscribe

On August 5th, 2012 in London's North Greenwich Arena, 37-year-old Oksana Chusovitina placed 5th in Women's Vault. Thus ended her sixth Summer Olympics as a competitor, more than any other female gymnast in the history of the games. “Am I old? I don’t feel old,” Chusovitina said in Russian, through a translator, as if answering a ridiculous question. “I’m not doing anything amazing. I’m just like everybody else here.”

Born in 1975 in what is now known as Uzbekistan, "Chuso" began competing at the international level in 1989, and in 1991 won her first individual gold for Floor Exercises at the World Championships in Indianapolis. Her impressive record includes 10 World Championships, three Asian Games, three Goodwill Games, and Olympics competition under three different national teams: the Unified Team in 1992; Uzbekistan in 1996, 2000 and 2004; and Germany in 2008 and 2012.

Her popularity within the international gymnastics community became suddenly crucial in 2002, when her young son, Alisher, was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia. Unable to afford treatment in Uzbekistan, Oksana and her family moved to Cologne, Germany at the invitation of friends Shanna and Peter Brüggemann. The University of Cologne Hospital agreed to begin treatment before payment, and with support from the Brüggemanns, donations and fundraising by gymnastics colleagues and fans from the around the world*, and her own prize money from past competitions, Oksana and her husband were able cover the costs.

While her son underwent treatment, Oksana began training with the German team, for which she has competed ever since. No video is yet available for her participation at the 2012 Olympics, but you can watch her silver medal vaults from the 2011 World Championships in Tokyo.

After a career that has spanned more than twenty years and an earlier flirtation with retirement, Oksana has decided that the 2012 games will be her last. Her plan is to continue to coach younger gymnasts in Germany, but she acknowledged the uncertainty of her life ahead. "I've got to try out this normal life first, then I can tell you how I like it."

* due to the limitations of the Wayback Machine, a direct link isn't possible. To read the article, search or scroll to "Gymnastics Community Rallies to Support Sick Child"
posted by Narrative Priorities (12 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
5th place at 37? Even McKayla was impressed!
posted by "But who are the Chefs?" at 9:29 AM on August 17, 2012 [4 favorites]

That video doc was great. Thanks.
posted by stagewhisper at 10:05 AM on August 17, 2012

The video says she won medals for four different nations. (Soviet Union, CIS, Uzbekistan, Germany?)

That must be an unprecedented achievement.
posted by sour cream at 10:06 AM on August 17, 2012 [5 favorites]

as an hommage to this athlete, I'm going to run across the office and vault over one of my unsuspecting colleagues.
posted by bitteroldman at 10:17 AM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

I first heard of Oksana completely by accident -- I was watching the Women's Vault while killing a few hours in Times Square before the Mars Curiosity Landing, one of the few snatches of the Olympics coverage I managed to catch this year.

Then this woman turned up on screen who looked at least ten years older than her competitors, and she carried herself like a stone cold badass, and she executed a beautiful vault, and I looked to the folks I was with and said "I MUST KNOW WHO THAT LADY IS AND EVERYTHING ABOUT HER."
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:20 AM on August 17, 2012 [7 favorites]

You have done that very well indeed, Narrative Priorities, eponysterically one might say in fact.
posted by infini at 10:24 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

as an hommage to this athlete, I'm going to run across the office and vault over one of my unsuspecting colleagues.

I'd expect the level of difficulty to be weighted heavily in your favor.
posted by Mojojojo at 11:23 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am convinced Oksana will find an excellent second career as the Black Widow counterpart in Germany's equivalent of SHIELD. Killing a man with one kick must seem a cakewalk against a spinny aerial flipping vaulty-thing.
posted by nicebookrack at 11:25 AM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

This thread made me curious as to who was the oldest Olympic athlete ever to medal. The answer is Sweden's Oscar Swahn, who won a silver medal in the running deer single-shot event (?!) at the 1920 games at the ripe old age of 72. (He won his first gold medal in the same event at the tender age of 60.)
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:31 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had google "running deer single-shot event" to reassure myself that "deer" referred to "deer-shaped targets" and not "real, actual deer."
posted by "But who are the Chefs?" at 11:44 AM on August 17, 2012

Her male counterpart? Iordan Iovtchev. 39 years old, six time Olympian and four time medalist - and the entire Bulgarian mens gymnastics team at the 2012 Olympics. He could have won Sasuke (Ninja Warrior) as well, if only it hadn't been raining at the end of the final stage.
posted by true at 11:47 AM on August 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

I must know what this woman's joints are made of.
posted by LordSludge at 2:10 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

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