alicia sacramone

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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A recent history of U.S. Olympic gymnastics comebacks

Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman
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Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman seemed pleased with their return to competitive gymnastics in Italy on Saturday, their first meet since each won two gold medals at the London Olympics.

But history is not on their side on the road to the Rio 2016 Games.

Douglas, Raisman and McKayla Maroney and Kyla Ross are trying to become the first U.S. women’s gymnasts to make back-to-back Olympic teams since Dominique Dawes and Amy Chow in 2000.

Since 2000, six U.S. Olympians tried and failed to return to the Games four years later. They included Olympic and World all-around champions, even gymnasts who won U.S. and World titles in the years leading into their squashed repeat bids.

The 2012 quartet fights not only a younger generation of gymnasts to make the five-woman 2016 Olympic team but also this history of the last six Olympians who attempted the same:

Nastia Liukin
2008 Olympic all-around champion

Liukin returned the season after the Beijing Olympics, placing fourth on the balance beam at the 2009 U.S. Championships. She announced a break from the sport two weeks later, citing not being in the physical shape she would like to compete and withdrawing from 2009 World Championships consideration.

Another two years passed before Liukin announced she was training for the 2012 Olympics. She returned to competition in May 2012. Her best finishes at the 2012 U.S. Championships and the U.S. Olympic Trials were sixth and seventh on the balance beam, respectively, missing the five-woman London Olympic team.

Shawn Johnson
2008 Olympic all-around silver medalist

Johnson went on “Dancing with the Stars” in 2009, and won, and then blew out her left knee in a January 2010 skiing accident. She took part in her first U.S. national team camp since the Beijing Olympics in November 2010 and returned to competition in 2011, with a best finish of fourth on balance beam at the U.S. Championships.

Johnson was the second alternate for the 2011 World Championships team and competed at the Pan American Games, placing second on uneven bars.

In June 2012, Johnson announced her retirement, four days before the U.S. Championships, citing continued problems with her left knee.

Alicia Sacramone
Ten-time World Championships medalist

Sacramone, the oldest member of the 2008 Olympic team, briefly retired in 2009 but returned to competition in 2010, winning the World title on vault. She claimed the U.S. balance beam title in 2011 but tore an Achilles tendon during World Championships training.

She endured, captured her sixth national title on vault and placed second on vault and beam at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials. But she was not named to the U.S. Olympic team, which already had strong vaulters with all-around prowess.

Chellsie Memmel
2005 World all-around champion

Memmel competed at the 2009 U.S. Championships, placing eighth on balance beam, and then sat out 2010. She placed second in the all-around at the 2011 U.S. Classic, a U.S. Championships tune-up meet. At Nationals, she was eighth in the all-around and second on balance beam.

Memmel did not make the 2011 World Championships team but was selected for the Pan American Games. She withdrew before the Pan Am Games with a shoulder injury, which required surgeries in September 2011 and February 2012.

She competed once more, falling twice on the beam at the 2012 U.S. Classic, failing to meet a qualifying score and having her petition to compete at the 2012 U.S. Championships rejected.

Bridget Sloan
2009 World all-around champion

Sloan, the youngest member of the 2008 Olympic team, emerged as the world’s best gymnast the year after the Beijing Games. She won the U.S. and World Championships all-arounds.

She was limited by an ankle injury and a torn pectoral in 2010, keeping her from defending her U.S. all-around title. She still made it to the World Championships, where she placed fourth on the uneven bars.

In 2011, she joined Johnson on the Pan American Games team, which proved to be Sloan’s final international competition. Sloan placed 10th in the all-around at the 2012 U.S. Championships but suffered an elbow injury in warm-ups at the Olympic Trials and withdrew.

Tasha Schwikert
2001 and 2002 U.S. all-around champion

Schwikert, a 2000 Olympic alternate who competed in Sydney due to another gymnast’s injury, was the only member of the 2000 or 2004 U.S. Olympic teams who attempted to earn a spot at a second Games.

She captured U.S. all-around titles in 2001 and 2002 and was second to 2004 Olympian Courtney Kupets in 2003.

In 2004, Schwikert was third in the all-around after one of two days at the U.S. Championships, competing with a sore right Achilles. But she fell to ninth after the second day and was an alternate for the Athens 2004 Olympics. That time, she did not get called up to compete.

Catalina Ponor, three-time gymnastics gold medalist, eyes Rio 2016 Olympics comeback

Alicia Sacramone marries NFL quarterback

Alicia Sacramone
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Olympic gymnast Alicia Sacramone and St. Louis Rams quarterback Brady Quinn have tied the knot.

Sacramone, a 2008 Olympic silver medalist, and Quinn had been dating since at least 2009, and it was known last year that they were engaged.

Sacramone, 26, retired in January 2013, ending a career that included an American gymnastics record 10 World Championships medals.

Quinn, 29, underwent back surgery in November and was placed on injured reserve. He was a first-round pick of the Cleveland Browns in 2007.

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