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Olympics missing a familiar face: Injury keeps Oksana Chusovitina from competing in her 9th Olympic Games

Oksana Chusovitina at the 2020 Olympics, courtesy of Getty Images

This year’s Olympics will be the first since the 1988 Games in Seoul in which gymnast Oksana Chusovitina doesn’t compete.

Oksana Chusovitina announced on her Instagram (@oksana2016) that she injured herself in podium training for the Asian Championships, the competition that, depending on her all-around score, could’ve allowed her to compete in her ninth Olympic Games. Chusovitina’s Instagram post read, “My dear friends, fans, and everyone who loves gymnastics! Unfortunately, I have some sad news for you. Yesterday, while training on the podium of the Asian Championships, which is taking place in Tashkent and is a qualifying event for the Olympic Games in Paris, I was injured during the floor exercise. I will not be able to take part and I am very upset as I have been preparing for this competition for a long time. I started doing all-around and I wanted to perform in our country, in front of our fans. But, unfortunately, tomorrow you will not see me among the participants. I would like to express my gratitude to all of you, but you can come and support our girls. That’s what I’m going to do tomorrow!”

Chusovitina’s injury announcement was heartbreaking, and there will be a hole at the Paris 2024 Olympics without her presence. In a sport where gymnasts have historically retired in their teens, it is refreshing and inspiring to see a woman compete in the sport for as long as she has. 

Chusovitina has one of the most impressive elite gymnastics careers, lasting over 30 years. She started gymnastics in 1982 in the Soviet Union at seven and competed in her first Olympics in 1992 under the Unified Team where she won a gold medal in the team event. 

Chusovitina moved to Germany, and gained citizenship in 2006, to receive medical treatment for her son. While competing for Germany, she secured a silver medal on vault in the 2008 Olympics. She planned on retiring after the 2009 World Championships, though she went on to compete for Germany in her sixth Olympic Games in 2012. After the London Olympics, where she placed fifth in the vault finals, Chusovitina again said she would retire. However, she went on to compete in two more Olympics and train for a third.

From 1993-2005 and 2013-present Chusovitina has represented Uzbekistan, her home country whom she is determined to win an Olympic medal for. In addition to her Olympic medals, Chusovitina has 11 World Championships medals, nine of them being vault medals, the event she specializes in.

In the 2016 Olympics, Chusovitina qualified for the vault finals. At the age of 41, she became the oldest gymnast to compete at the Olympics. In 2018, she began training the all-around (all four apparatuses) again. She said she would retire after the Tokyo Olympics. At the 2020 Olympics, where she did not make the vault finals, Chusovitina blew kisses to the crowd and took bows, seeming as though she was officially closing the door on her long career. The Gymternet (the online community of gymnastics fans), myself included, did not believe Chusovitina was going to finally hang up her leotard. And she didn’t. Not long after the Tokyo Games in 2021, Chusovitina posted training videos and had her eyes set on Paris.

To say Oksana Chusovitina will be missed at this year’s Olympics is an understatement. Her absence in this year’s will be felt; I wish there was automatically a spot for her in every Olympics.

There are five skills in women’s artistic gymnastics named after Chusovitina: two on vault, two on the uneven bars, and one on the floor exercise. Her legacy will live on through these skills and her iconic career. I hope her career continues and ends on her own terms and with her Olympic medal for Uzbekistan.

Edited By: Bailey Massey

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