Jul 20, 2016

    Uzbek gymnast, 41, will vie with rivals less than half her age


    OKSANA Chusovitina is training for a record-breaking seventh Olympic Games that will see the Uzbek star become the oldest woman gymnast to compete at age 41.

    Her qualification for the Rio Games extended a staggering career that has seen her represent three countries over a quarter of a century in a sport dominated by teen prodigies.

    Chusovitina said she does not deprive herself to maintain her muscular 1.5m-tall, 43kg frame.

    She started her career competing for the Soviet Union. After it collapsed, she went to the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona for the Confederation of Independent States, a unified team of former Soviet states.

    There, she scooped gold in the gymnastics team event but had to wait another 16 years for an individual medal.

    That came when she won silver on the vault in Beijing in 2008. By then, she was representing Germany where she moved to in 2002 to get her son treated for leukaemia.

    Now she is back representing her Central Asian homeland of Uzbekistan - a nation of 30 million people where she is so revered she has figured on postage stamps.

    "It is too early to make any sort of predictions," she said when asked about her medal hopes.

    Chusovitina admitted that it is sometimes tough keeping up with the rigours of a sport where she is often competing against competitors less than half her age.

    "Gymnastics has become much more difficult but, at the same time, much more dramatic and beautiful," she said.