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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