Gymnast Oksana Chusovitina's quest to qualify for record 9th Olympics at age 48 ends with injury

24 February 2024, Brandenburg, Cottbus: Gymnastics: World Cup, women: Vault, final in the Lausitz Arena. Oksana Chusovitina from Uzbekistan reacts after her routine. Photo: Frank Hammerschmidt/dpa (Photo by Frank Hammerschmidt/picture alliance via Getty Images)
Oksana Chusovitina, the 48-year-old gymnast from Uzbekistan, will not compete in a record-extending ninth Olympic Games this summer. (Photo by Frank Hammerschmidt/picture alliance via Getty Images) (picture alliance via Getty Images)

Oksana Chusovitina's time as an Olympic athlete is over. After a professional career that lasted nearly 35 years and spanned eight Olympic Games, the 48-year-old's dream of making a ninth Olympics has ended after a injury during podium training at the Asian Gymnastics Championships, which are taking place in her home country of Uzbekistan.

Chusovitina, a vault specialist, announced the news on Instagram. The English translation is included in the text below:

"My dear friends, fans and everyone who loves Gymnastics! Unfortunately, I have some sad news for you.

"Yesterday, while training on the podium of the Asian Championships, which is taking place in Tashkent and is a qualifying event for the Olympic Games in Paris, I was injured during the floor exercise. I will not be able to take part and I am very upset as I have been preparing for this competition for a long time. I started doing all-around and I wanted to perform in our country, in front of our fans. But, unfortunately, tomorrow you will not see me among the participants. I would like to express my gratitude to all of you, but you can come and support our girls. That's what I'm going to do tomorrow!"

Chusovitina already holds the records for most Olympic appearances for a gymnast (male or female) and oldest gymnast to compete at the Olympics. Though she didn't mention retirement, the Olympics (and Olympic qualifying events) have been her focus for the last few years. She will be 52 when the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles take place, and while you can never count Chusovitina out, this feels like the end of the road for her Olympic career.

But it has been a long and illustrious career for Chusovitina. She began competing for the Soviet Union in 1990, but after the fall of the USSR, she competed as part of the Unified Team at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. She and the rest of the gymnastics team took home gold in the team event, the only Olympic gold medal of her career. She also won bronze on vault in 2008 in Beijing, her only individual Olympic medal. Overall, she has won 35 medals in international competition.

Born in Uzbekistan, Chusovitina has competed for her home country for several years, but spent a long period in Germany after her son and only child, Alisher, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. With the help of friends, she and her husband, Uzbek wrestler Bakhodir Kurpanov, moved to Cologne so Alisher could receive the latest medical treatment at the University of Cologne. She competed for Germany after she became a citizen in 2006.

Chusovitina originally said she would retire after the 2012 Summer Olympics, but she changed her mind. Instead she returned to Uzbekistan and has represented them ever since. Alisher eventually went into remission after six years of treatment.