This week, the World Gymnastics Championships are happening in Rotterdam. The two women’s teams I cheer for, the Americans and the Australians, both made the finals, and American Rebecca Bross has a very good shot at all-around gold. She is something to see.
But the woman I’m really rooting for this week is Oksana Chusovitina, who competes for Germany. Chusovitina is thirty-five years old, and this is her thirteenth World Championship competition. I’ll repeat that: she is thirty-five, and is a top-ranked elite gymnast. In a sport where 22-year-old American Alicia Sacramone, also competing this week, is considered old, Chusovitina is highly unusual. The toll that gymnastics takes on the body and the extremely high level of commitment it demands means that women usually retire before their twentieth birthdays.
Chusovitina has a son, which is also virtually unheard among competitive gymnasts, some of whom train so hard that they don’t get their periods until after they quit. In 2002 her son was diagnosed with leukemia, and Chusovitina and her husband moved from Uzbekistan to Germany so that he could be treated. Chusovitina continued to compete in order to pay for his treatment. She began competing for Germany in 2006 and was a member of the German team in Beijing in 2008, where she won a silver medal on vault.
Chusovitina plans to keep competing through the 2012 Olympic cycle, by which point she will be closer to forty than she is to thirty, and almost all of her competitors will be half her age. What a bad-ass. Check her out:
Did I mention that she’s THIRTY-FIVE YEARS OLD? What a freaking bad-ass.