Olympics: Games' oldest female gymnast wins silver
Mon, Aug 18, 2008

BEIJING, CHINA - The oldest female gymnast at the Beijing Olympics stormed to a silver medal on the vault Sunday against rivals who were not even born when she began competing internationally.

Oksana Chusovitina powered her way to a podium place at the positively veteran age, in terms of women's gymnastics, of 33.

That gave Chusovitina, now representing Germany, her first individual Olympic medal in what was her fifth Games, having appeared for three teams.

She made her debut at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, where she won team gold for the Unified team of ex-Soviet Union states.

Buoyed by her silver, the evergreen Chusovitina said she was still hoping to make the trip to London for the next Games in 2012.

'By then I'll be 37, if I can I'll do a sixth Olympics,' she said.

'I still love gymnastics and I still have fun every day.'

After representing the Unified team, Chusovitina switched to her native Uzbekistan from 1993.

She then made her most recent move to Germany in 2005 because she needed top medical treatment for her son Alisher's leukaemia, which she says has proved successful.

'This medal is for my son,' she said. 'I can't say how happy I am.'

Chusovitina, who has also won three golds, three silvers and four bronze medals at world championship level since 1991, said she did not dwell upon her age. 'I don't feel 33, I feel 18,' she said.

Her coach Shanna Poljakova said Chusovitina's competitors, many of whom were born only when the Soviet Union was a distant memory, regarded her as just one of the girls.

'She thinks like any other girl here,' she said. 'She sits with them, she talks with them, she doesn't need to play an older role.'

Her 16-year-old team-mate Marie-Sophie Hindermann said last week that Chusovitina was an inspiration.

'Oksana always knows how to focus her power,' she said. 'She doesn't do a lot of training, she does things once and she does it well.'


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