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Oksana Chusovitina reflects before last bid for ninth Olympics at age 48

Oksana Chusovitina’s chances of qualifying for a record-extending ninth Olympics in gymnastics have become slim, but the 48-year-old plans to compete through the very last opportunity in her home country of Uzbekistan on Friday.

The Asian Championships are in Tashkent, where one Paris Olympic women’s spot is available to the highest-placing eligible all-around finisher.

“I will fight to the very end,” Chusovitina said in March, according to a translation from her manager. “I always say that you need to take any chance, not to regret afterwards.”

Gymnasts from the top nations of China, Japan and South Korea are ineligible for the Olympic spot at the Asian Championships given their teams have already qualified for the Games.

Chusovitina, who specializes on one event, the vault, was 18th at the 2023 Asian Championships in the all-around, where gymnasts compete on balance beam, floor exercise, uneven bars and vault.

Chusovitina missed out on Olympic qualification earlier this year via the apparatus World Cup series. She ranked fifth on vault combining results over four competitions. Two gymnasts per apparatus qualified for Paris.

Chusovitina had said before the Tokyo Olympics that they would be her final Games. By competing there, she became the oldest female gymnast in Olympic history, according to the OlyMADMen.

After her last routine in Tokyo, a vault in qualifying, she waved and blew kisses, made a heart shape with her hands and got back on top of the competition podium to acknowledge the small arena crowd. It looked like a goodbye.

Then in May 2022, Chusovitina announced that she would bid for the Paris Games.

“I just can’t get enough of it,” Chusovitina, who was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 2017, said in March. “I mean, I like the process. I like everything about sports, gymnastics. I like atmosphere of competitions. I like even the training process. It is my air to breathe. I don’t bother anyone. So why should I stop it? My philosophy of living is to do the things that bring joy and happiness to myself.”

Asked her favorite memory in the sport, Chusovitina did not point to her gold medal with the Unified Team in her Olympic debut in 1992 or her world titles while representing the Soviet Union in 1991 (team and floor) and for Uzbekistan in 2003 (vault).

She said it was the recovery of her son, Alisher, who was born in 1999 and diagnosed with leukemia in 2002.

“It easily shakes all the other sweet memories in my career,” she said.

They moved to Germany for his treatment. Chusovitina gained German citizenship and won vault silver for the country at the 2008 Beijing Games before switching back to her native Uzbekistan.

After competing in the last two Olympics for Uzbekistan, Chusovitina opened a combination school and gymnastics academy in Tashkent in March that she said is free for children.

“Every time I see them, I remember myself at the same age,” she said last week from China, where she trained before the Asian Championships.

As for her future in competitive gymnastics?

“I don’t want to look further into next season at the moment,” she said in March. “What I want now is to make my current job well.”

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