Today is Oksana Chusovitina’s birthday. She is now forty-three.
In a world where female athletes rarely get the attention they deserve, I want to mention this seven-time Olympic gymnastics star who also happens to be the mother of an adult son.
* Born in the Soviet Union (Uzbekistan), and is quite possibly the last active Soviet-trained athlete in the world.
* She won her first World Championship titles for the USSR in *1991*, and Olympic gold the next year competing for the CIS.
* Surviving the breakup of the Soviet Union with her career intact (when many others lost funding and coaches), she competed for Uzbekistan at the 1996 Olympics, got married in 1997, and had a son in 1999.
* Immediately after having her child, she competed at the 2000 Olympics. And we’re talking gymnastics here: the hardest sport in the world.
* She won World silver in 2001, and then became World Champion again in 2003 – twelve years after her first win.
* Chusovitina’s son had major medical issues, and the family moved to Germany to access treatment.
* While competing for Germany, Chusovitina won Olympic silver in 2008 – sixteen years after winning her first Olympic medal.
* Since then, she has continued to compete, and compete, even though she is now forty-three and in such a physically demanding sport. She has also worked as a coach.
* She was supposed to retire after the 2012 Olympic vault final (where only the top eight gymnasts qualify – and she made it), but she turned up again at the 2016 Games.
Every gymnnastics generation has their “It Girl” the media goes crazy about when the Olympics come around, but if we’re talking about the greatest ever, my vote goes to Oksana.