Oksana Chusovitina was offered a legend's farewell in her eighth Olympic Games in a heartwarming moment in Tokyo.
Chusovitina was competing in the Olympics five years before Simone Biles was even born and to mark an end to her exceptional career, the 46-year-old said farewell in her eighth Games to a stunning ovation.
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At 46, the Uzbek gymnast has defied all odds to compete in Tokyo, but following the opening day of the women's competition, she bid a tearful farewell after failing to make the cut for the vault final.
Chusovitina is a legend of the sport and captivated a country when she won gold in the 1992 Olympics.
But with ticket-paying fans barred from the arena due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Chusovitina missed out being given a rousing farewell from thousands of cheering fans.
However, her competitors didn't let the moment go.
Coaches and fellow gymnasts stopped to hail her extraordinary career with a standing ovation on Sunday in a beautiful moment.
Chusovitina was seen in tears hugging her coach after the beautiful moment.
"These were tears of joy because so many people were supporting me," said Chusovitina, adding that she would have loved to have ended her career in the presence of spectators.
Fans flocked to social media to praise the gymnast and her dedication to the sport.
Standing ovation and not a dry eye in the house for the #ArtisticGymnastics legend Oksana Chusovitina 🇺🇿 as she takes her final @Olympics bow. The 46-year-old today became an 8⃣-time Olympian, competing on Vault for the last time at @Tokyo2020 ❤️#Tokyo2020 #Olympics pic.twitter.com/fjm3QNiK21
— FIG (@gymnastics) July 25, 2021
This photo means a lot to me and mainly because of what it represents. Constancy, Courage and above all breaking stereotypes. Admiration Oksana Chusovitina 🇺🇿 🇪🇸 #StrongerForever #Tokyo2020 pic.twitter.com/NHuyxtgBjQ
— Marina (Go)nzalez Lara (@marinaGLara2002) July 24, 2021
— Azwa Ismail (@azwaismail) July 25, 2021
The woman, the myth, the legend.
Oksana Chusovitina 🙌 pic.twitter.com/nBb5qHStmA
— D'Arcy Maine (@darcymaine_espn) July 25, 2021
Oksana Chusovitna is a legend. What a well-deserved moment.
— Catherine Garrett (@cath_garrett) July 25, 2021
She is amazing! Competing at 46 years old, Uzbekistan’s Oksana Chusovitina is the oldest gymnast in #Olympics history. Her son is already 22 years old, similar to similar to her competitors. #OlympicGames pic.twitter.com/i7J4RpwquC
— Fion Li (@fion_li) July 25, 2021
8 Olympics (32 years) of competing at the world’s highest level. Wow! Hats off to you Ms. Chusovitna 🇺🇿congratulations on a heck of a career! #Olympics
— Trovocie Jackson (@Coach_Jackson5) July 26, 2021
Me, same age as Oksana Chusovitna, putting off having to get up to make tea.
— Casey Mattox (@CaseyMattox_) July 26, 2021
Mad respect for Oksana Chusovitna. What a legend. #Olympics
— Rev. Heidi C. Heath she/her/hers) (@revfemme) July 26, 2021
— A. 🐩⭐ (@poodlestar) July 26, 2021
I cried a bit with oksana chusovitna leaving...
Not that hard to make me cry, granted
— Consulting HOverSeas (@HOverSeas_) July 25, 2021
Despite the disappointment on missing out on the vault final — the only apparatus she has been competing on in recent years — Chusovitina said her life-long accomplishments outweighed her result in Tokyo.
"I had been preparing for things to end here, but it's impossible to be fully ready for ending your career," she said.
Oksana Chusovitina's incredible career
Chusovitina become the Soviet all-around champion at 13 and the world champion on floor in 1991.
She won gold in the team event at the 1992 Barcelona Games and silver in the vault in Beijing 16 years later when she had temporarily switched her allegiance to Germany.
Chusovitina's career also embodies the political upheaval that rocked the Soviet Union. After competing under the Soviet flag, she went on to represent the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Unified Team, and her native Uzbekistan after the Soviet collapse.
She later competed for Germany, where she moved to seek treatment for her son's leukaemia, before returning to compete for Uzbekistan.
Chusovitina said her longevity had been fuelled by an intense passion for gymnastics. At the 2012 London Olympics she had announced her retirement, only to change her mind just 24 hours later.
"There is no secret," said the Uzbek, who had made it into the vault final at the Rio Olympics five years ago. "I just love gymnastics and no one ever forced me to do it. I do it with pleasure."
Chusovitina's grit and ability to adapt to changing times has awed the gymnastics community and she has often proved that age is no barrier to succeed in the sport.
"No words to describe how impressive that is," Aly Raisman, a six-time Olympic medallist, wrote on Twitter ahead of Chusovitina's performance. "Forever an icon."
Now done with gymnastics, Chusovitina said she was looking forward to devoting more time to her family and opening a sports club in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan.
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