Oksana Chusovitina jokes about retirement in gymnastics hall of fame speech

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Oksana Chusovitina was one of the older Olympians inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame on Saturday. She was also the only one who is still competing.

“It seems like this award is for people who retired,” Chusovitina said through a translator, her coach and three-time Olympic champion Svetlana Boginskaya. “In this case, I am not, and you will never be alive until I retire. So keep waiting.”

Chusovitina’s joke-filled induction speech can be seen about 1 hour, 40 minutes into the broadcast here.

Chusovitina, who broke the record for Olympic gymnastics appearances with her seventh in Rio, turns 42 years old next month. It sounds like Tokyo 2020 is not out of the picture for a woman who has represented the Soviet Union, the Unified Team, Germany and Uzbekistan in major competition.

She most recently performed on balance beam, floor exercise and vault at World Cup meets in March.

“I would like to thank my mother for longevity in the sport because she’s the one who didn’t want me to do it,” Chusovitina said Saturday. “I wanted to prove her wrong. With any child, you just want to do the opposite of what your parent tells you. So, thank you, mom.

“My mom always wanted for me to be scientist or piano player, or some one that not an athlete, so thank you, mom, for making me an athlete. And I think when my mom actually will say, honey, I’m OK with you being a gymnast, maybe that will be the time where I will stop.”

Chusovitina went on about her son, Alisher, who was diagnosed with leukemia in October 2002 and is now healthy and will turn 18 years old in November.

“He didn’t take a passion for gymnastics; he is afraid of heights,” she said. “He is short, like me, but he likes basketball. And he believes he’s going to be a basketball player and be in NBA. He is short, but I don’t want to kill his dreams.”

Of the four gymnasts inducted Saturday, Chusovitina was the second-oldest behind Japan’s Shun Fujimoto. Fujimoto memorably helped Japan to the 1976 Olympic team title competing on a broken leg.

Alicia Sacramone, a 2008 U.S. Olympic silver medalist, is 29 years old and four years removed from her retirement announcement.

Alexei Nemov, the 2000 Olympic all-around champion from Russia, is 11 months younger than Chusovitina but retired after the 2004 Olympics.

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Salwa Eid Naser, world 400m champion, provisionally banned

Salwa Eid Naser
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Salwa Eid Naser, the world 400m champion of Bahrain, was provisionally suspended for missing three drug tests in a 12-month span.

“I’ve never been a cheat. I will never be,” Naser, 22, said in an Instagram live video. “I only missed three drug tests, which is normal. It happens. It can happen to anybody. I don’t want people to get confused in all this because I would never cheat.”

Naser said “the missed tests” came before last autumn’s world championships, where she ran the third-fastest time in history (48.14 seconds) and the fastest in 34 years.

“This year I have not been drug tested,” she said. “We are still talking about the ones of last season before the world championships.”

The Athletics Integrity Unit, which handles doping cases for track and field, did not announce whether Naser’s gold medal could be stripped.

“Hopefully, it’ll get resolved because I don’t really like the image, but it has happened,” she said. “It’s going to be fine. It’s very hard to have this little stain on my name.”

Naser, the 2017 World silver medalist, upset Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas for the world title in Doha on Oct. 3.

The only women who have run faster than Naser, who was born Ebelechukwu Agbapuonwu in Nigeria to a Nigerian mother who sprinted and a Bahraini father, were dubious — East German Marita Koch (47.60) and Czechoslovakia’s Jarmila Kratochvilova (47.99).

“I would never take performance-enhancing drugs,” Naser said. “I believe in talent, and I know I have the talent.”

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When Laurie Hernandez winked at the Olympics

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Blink, and you may have missed one of the social-media-sensation moments of the Rio Olympics.

Laurie Hernandez, then 16, was the youngest woman on the U.S. Olympic team across all sports. She was about to start arguably the most important floor exercise routine of her life.

So, she winked.

“The amazing thing about the Olympics is that you feel so many different emotions in the span of a few days, and they are all intense,” she wrote in her 2017 book, “I Got This,” a nod to what she told herself before her balance beam routine earlier that night. “So it was nice to have at least one totally playful moment.”

The U.S., on its fourth and final rotation, already had the team gold all but locked up. Knowing she was nervous, Hernandez’s teammates confirmed to her that they were a few points ahead.

Then Hernandez heard the beep, and it was time to go. She was in the view of an out-of-bounds judge at the Rio Olympic Arena.

“Well, I looked straight at her and suddenly felt this surge of confidence to wink,” she wrote. “Later, a woman came up to me while I was watching Simone [Biles] and Aly [Raisman] compete in their all-around finals and she said, ‘Wow, I just want you to know that when you winked at the judge, it really worked.’ I didn’t know how to respond, so I just said, ‘Thank you. That’s very nice of you to say.’ That’s when she told me she was the out-of-bounds judge! All I could say was ‘Oh my goodness.'”

Hernandez, a New Jersey native, finished the Olympics with a team gold and balance beam silver.

She took more than two years off before making a comeback in earnest last year, announcing she planned to return to competition this spring under new coaches in California. Now that’s on hold given the coronavirus pandemic, which pushed the Tokyo Olympics to 2021.

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