Day 1: Oksana Chusovitina

It’s nine days to go on our #countdowntoRio so here’s our first gymnast profile.

It’s a common myth that gymnasts peak at a young age with 16-18 year olds forming the bulk of many an Olympic team and gymnasts like Beth Tweddle, who continued competing internationally until her late 20s, have been a bit of a rarity. In fact, now, more and more gymnasts are returning to compete at their second Games (note the USA men’s and women’s teams or the Italian women this year) as improved equipment, training and recovery methods allow gymnasts to continue putting their bodies under immense stress.

Even so, this incredible lady bucks all the trends. At the remarkable age of 41, Oksana Chusovitina has a teenage son, has competed under five different flags and seems incapable of retiring – Rio will be her SEVENTH Olympic Games!! The stats are truly amazing: she became World Champion on floor when current six time World All-Around Champion Kohei Uchimura (who can even remember the pre-Kohei days?!) wasn’t even toddling in nappies; she’s been to fourteen world championships, raking in over 70 international medals; has five skills named after her; and still competes some of the most difficult vaults that only a few women have even dared to try, let alone perform successfully!

If anyone ever tells you you’re too old to do gymnastics, that your 15, 25, 35 year old body couldn’t possibly stand the impact of tumbling and leaping, just think of Oksana. She’s an inspiration to all, always helping the younger generation, proving that you don’t have to follow the traditional path: she’s an Olympic medallist on vault, and yet never performs the standard yurchenko (backwards) entry, adopting a handspring (forwards) or tsukahara (sidewards) vault instead with tremendous success. She’s obviously an explosive gymnast but also combines grace and elegance to make her a great all-rounder.

She’ll be competing as an individual gymnast for Uzbekistan and will be aiming to make the Vault Final: it would be truly amazing if she makes it!