The Olympic legend didn't qualify for the vault finals, but received loud cheers on Sunday.
Eight-time Olympian Oksana Chusovitina competed in vault during the women's artistic gymnastics qualifications on Sunday in Tokyo. The 46-year-old performed two vaults in hopes of making the top eight at the Tokyo Olympics for Uzbekistan. It was an emotional moment for the athlete and while she didn't qualify for the vault finals as her average score of 14.166 wasn't high enough to advance, the support from fans was astounding. Chusovitina made her Olympic debut in 1992 and recently revealed that the Tokyo Olympics will be her last.
At 46 years old, Oksana Chusovitina just competed in her 8th Olympic Games, becoming the oldest female gymnast in Olympic history— CBC Olympics (@CBCOlympics) July 25, 2021
But her story is so much more than that, as Chusovitina delayed retirement to raise money for her son's leukemia diagnosis in 2002
A legend 💜 pic.twitter.com/yubXeNikqn
After her final vault, Chusovitina received a standing ovation from everyone in the stadium. She got applause and cheers from her fellow gymnastics teammates and opponents. The moment brought tears to her eyes as she waved to the small crowd and held up a heart with her hands. "It was really nice," she told reporters afterward, according to PEOPLE. "I cried tears of happiness because so many people have supported me for a long time. I didn't look at the results, but I feel very proud and happy," she added. "I'm saying goodbye to sports. It's kind of mixed feelings." The International Federation of Gymnastics tweeted that there was "not a dry eye in the house" as the icon took her bow after the qualifying round.
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
Chusovitina dominated a sport that was known for being more popular with teenage athletes. "I feel very good to be here. But this will for sure be my last Olympics," she told reporters. "I'm 46 years old. Nothing is going to change it. I'm alive, I'm happy, I'm here without any injuries, and I can stand on my own," she added with a laugh.
Oksana Chusovitina 1992 Olympics floor. This is Oksana Chusovitina 8th Olympics!! No words to describe how impressive that is. Forever an icon. Wishing Oksana the best of luck! I’m so excited to watch. pic.twitter.com/bif8O8ZTna— Alexandra Raisman (@Aly_Raisman) July 24, 2021
Chusovitina first competed in the Olympics as part of the Unified Team in 1992. Over time, she has won 11 world medals and was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 2017. The website for the Olympics states that Chusovitina, who was born in Uzbekistan, secured team gold in Barcelona 1992, silver in Beijing 2008, two World Cup medals, four Asian Championship medals, eight Asian Games medals, and four European Championship medals. "When I started gymnastics, I never thought about the Olympics. I just started with the sport and loved to do gymnastics," she told reporters on Sunday. "I'm very proud of what I have achieved, to be in the sport, and want to thank everyone involved in it." The athlete is now focussing on spending time with her family including her husband, who competed at the Olympics in Greco-Roman wrestling. "I think it's time now, really," Chusovitina said, according to The New York Times. "I want to be a mom and a wife."
Oksana Chusovitina, the oldest competing gymnast in history. pic.twitter.com/udFUGRALLF— anthraxxx781 (@anthraxxx781) July 25, 2021
The legend has been inspiring other athletes across the world, including members of the Team USA women's gymnastics squad. Simone Biles, Sunisa Lee, Jordan Chiles, Grace McCallum, MyKayla Skinner, and Jade Carey posed in a photo with the icon while training before qualifiers. The USA Gymnastics official Instagram account captioned the image: The 🇺🇸 women were lucky enough to get a photo during training with Oksana Chusovitina (@oksana2016), as she prepares to compete in her record-extending 8th Olympic Games! As she says, 'I only got better, like fine wine.' Congratulations on a remarkable career!