46-year-old gymnast insists Tokyo Olympics, her eighth, will be her last

TOKYO — It only seems as if Oksana Chusovitina will compete forever.

Almost three times older than some of the other gymnasts in Tokyo, the 46-year-old said Thursday that this, her eighth Olympics, will be her last. Told that she has said that before, only to keep going, Chusovitina insisted she means it.

"I feel good (physically) but I feel bad," she said through a translator. "But at the end, I feel happy."

More and more women are staying longer in gymnastics, a sport once reserved for teenagers. Four of the six U.S. gymnasts in Tokyo are in their 20s, with Simone Biles and MyKayla Skinner both 24. Chellsie Memmel competed at this year’s U.S. championships at 32 and after having two kids.

But Chusovitina is one of a kind.

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She represented the Soviet Union at her first world championships, in 1991, and the Unified Team at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. She also competed for Germany as a way to thank the country for the medical treatment her son received there when he had childhood leukemia.

She now competes for Uzbekistan.

Oksana Chusovitina competes during the women's vault finals in the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games.
Oksana Chusovitina competes during the women's vault finals in the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games.

Vault has always been Chusovitina’s best event, and it’s the only one she’ll do in Tokyo. Despite being as old — or older — as some of her competitors’ parents, Chusovitina isn’t some aging athlete hanging on past her prime.

She was fourth on vault at the 2018 world championships, and is a frequent medalist at World Cup events.

"I didn’t think about it, but yes, of course, if someone thinks I’m motivation they can prolong being in the sport," Chusovitina said.

Her time, though, is coming to an end.

"My son is 22 years old and I want to spend time with him," Chusovitina said. "I want to be a mom and wife."

Eight Olympics, it seems, is enough for the seemingly ageless wonder.

Follow Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Gymnast Oksana Chusovitina, 46, is ageless wonder at Tokyo Olympics