Eight-time Olympian Oksana Chusovitina said farewell to gymnastics and her signature event Sunday night in Tokyo after competing on vault for the last time of her storied Olympic career.
With a score of 14.166, the 46-year-old competing for Uzbekistan just missed the event final, but that didn’t stop the chorus of cheers from the few in attendance and Chusovitina’s emotional response. She wiped tears from her eyes and waved at the crowd. Then, she made a heart with her hands.
“It was really nice,” Oksana said after the event. “I cried tears of happiness because so many people have supported me for a long time.”
Chusovitina made her first appearance at the Games in 1992. That year, she competed with athletes from the former Soviet Union as a member of the Unified team, which won gold. Chusovitina took silver in the vault in 2008, when she was 33, while competing for Germany. She has competed for three separate nations and claimed 11 world championship medals.
The gymnast exits the sport at a time when athletes like Simone Biles, who is 24, are challenging age norms in gymnastics. Chusovitina, who is a member of the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame’s 2017 class, has become an icon in the sport because of her durability over the decades. Before there was Biles or Chellsie Memmel, who is 32 with two children, there was Chusovitina.
Her next act will be spending time with family.
“My son is 22 years old and I want to spend time with him,” Chusovitina told USA Today Sports. “I want to be a mom and a wife.”
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