Over the last couple of weeks several German newspapers have posted articles on Oksana Chusovitina. So far we've found three stories about the oldest competitor in women's gymnastics, all of which contain interesting tidbits on her life in Germany and Uzbekistan. Circumstances permitting, we'll translate and post all three stories at some point.
One interesting detail that pops up in all three of the recent interviews is that Chusovitina is recovering from not one but two injuries. On top of the Achilles tendon she tore at the Swiss Cup in November, she's recovering from a shoulder operation she recently underwent. Apparently Chuso tore a biceps tendon before the Olympics. It didn't bother her much in Beijing, but all the same she decided to have surgery. We can't imagine what it must be like to have limited use of both a leg and an arm simultaneously, but it doesn't seem to be keeping Chuso from going about her business. She actually sounds busy!
The story below, in which Chusovitina reveals which new vault she'd like to learn if she ever makes it back to the top, was published by Koelnische Rundschau, a local newspaper from the city of Cologne, on December 22. Enjoy!
Santa Shows Up on New Year's Eve
Naturally Oksana Chusovitina, silver medalist on vault in Beijing, will celebrate Christmas, but not quite the way we do it in Germany, with a Christmas tree and a crib. Still, there's a pine branch wreath hanging on the door of her small row house in Brauweiler, and there is plenty of Christmas-style candy inside the large living room.
"We're going to celebrate Christmas in Uzbekistan," reveals Oksana Chusovitina. The silver medalist on vault at the Beijing Olympics uses the Christmas period to meet up with friends and family in her home town of Bukhara. "On December 31 we'll have a party with up to 25 friends. We'll put presents for the children in front of the front door, and at some point someone will ring the bell and quickly disappear from view, and we'll tell the kids it was Santa. But last year we had a problem: All the children sat down right in front of the door, full of hope and anticipation, and none of us could leave the house unobserved to put the presents in place."
Oksana Chusovitina laughs. Her right foot, the one with the torn ACL, is in a protective boot which almost reaches her knee. Her right arm is in a sling, as she recently had shoulder surgery. [Note: According to two other articles, it's her left arm she was recently operated on, not the right one.] But her injuries are not affecting her mood, even though it's unclear whether she will ever compete at the highest level again.
Chuso's legs before her most recent accident. We suspect her right leg will be marred by another big scar. (Photo: Rob Carr/AP Photo)
"Obviously I hope I will [return to competition], and I have to say, this doesn't really feel like the end of my career," says the 33-year-old gymnast. But it remains to be seen whether she will really take part in her 10th world championships in October.
"I have two legs and two arms, so I can work," says the multiple world and European champion, ready for a challenge. In Tashkent she graduated with a degree in Sports Science, and in Cologne she has been known to coach the juniors of her club, the Toyota Team, on occasion.
Chusovitina's excess energy is currently channeled first and foremost into her son Alisher, for whom she is cooking noodles this afternoon, and into her home. "I'm cleaning and vacuuming all the time. Perhaps I should apply for a job as a sweeper for the curling team in the new year," she says with a smile. "Oh, and the garden is looking good, too."
Chuso and her impossibly cute son Alisher (photo: NBC)
It was because of her then critically ill son Alisher that Oksana and her husband Bahodir Kurbanov came to Cologne in 2003. The doctors at the Cologne Academic Medical Centre won the battle against leukemia. These days Alisher is in Grade 3 of a language school. Oksana speaks Russian to her son, who sometimes answers in Russian, sometimes in German. When it comes to sports, he is less divided in his allegiances. His father, who used to be a world-class wrestler, got the short end of the stick. Alisher is a gymnast who goes to the gym four times a week. "I want to get as good as my Mom," he says. And of course his Mom supports him, even though she doesn't really like watching him. "I'm always a little afraid," says Chusovitina.
Life hasn't really changed for the exceptional gymnast since she won her silver medal in Beijing, at her fifth Olympics. "I now have more press engagements and I get recognized on the street by strangers more often. They all wish me a speedy recovery, which is great," she says. She doesn't want another frenzy like the one in China, where she made an appearance on a talk show which was watched by 480 million people. "At the time I fled the Beijing Bazar because everybody wanted to touch me."
Her only source of bitterness: She has had no new sponsorship offers since the summer. So she may have to work after all, preferably as a coach. "But only with young gymnasts," says Oksana Chusovitina with a smile. "Because you have to exert a lot of pressure on older gymnasts, and I'm incapable of that."
However, what she'd like to do most is to continue competing, because even after all these years, the triple world champion has some dreams left. "On vault I'd like to try a handspring double front," she says. With a vault like that, she could find herself medaling again at the 2012 London Olympics.