A while ago we reported that Oksana Chusovitina was not merely recovering from an Achilles tendon injury, but from shoulder surgery. It now transpires that she's going to have a third operation too, this time on her back. At least, that's what she told the Rheinische Turnerbund (the provincial gymnastics federation for her part of Germany) just before Christmas, in an interview which was only published a couple of days ago. Here it is...
(photo: Rheinische Turnerbund)
Oksana Is Already Thinking of the World Championships
Q: Oksana, you're wearing a special boot on your right foot, which makes you walk a bit funny. Furthermore, your left shoulder is in a sling. How are you?
A: (Oksana laughs.) I'm fine. I actually have a bit of time for myself now, which is nice for a change. Of course, being injured is no fun, but really, I'm used to being injured. Something is always hurting. It's like that for every elite athlete. It's no problem, because it looks worse than it is. Sure, it was an unfortunate thing to happen, but better now than at the Olympics. I actually have time now to let my other other injuries heal.
Q: You also recently had shoulder injury. What was wrong with your shoulder?
A: I kept having problems with it. Since I can't train at the moment anyway, I had it re-examined, and it turned out I needed surgery.
Q: And you are also going to have back surgery?
A: Yes, that's scheduled for late January. I'm getting it all over and done with in one go, so that I can start preparing for my next assignments afterward.
Q: What do your plans for the future look like?
A: First I'll get healthy again, so that I can finally resume proper training. Of course, it's not as if I'm not doing anything at the moment. But I never make long-term plans. I never have. I'm always fully focused on the next goal at hand [and not on what comes afterward].
Q: In your opinion, what would be a realistic goal to aspire to?
A: I think the European Championships will come too soon for me, because I'm not exactly getting any younger. But I definitely have my eyes set on the World Championships, possibly focusing on vault and beam only at first. After that, we'll see how it goes.
Q: I assume you often get asked whether you'll take part in a sixth Olympics?
A: Yes, I get that question all the time. They even asked me that right after my Achilles tendon operation in Switzerland! Of course I'll go to the Olympics a sixth time. In 2010 I'll be on the curling team in Vancouver. [Oksana obviously enjoys giving this answer. It pops up in several recent interviews.] Right now I'm happy about the medal I won in Beijing. I'm not thinking of London yet.
Q: When you're taking part in your fifth Olympics, does it feel like a routine event?
A: Absolutely not. The Olympics mean far too much for that. Even I get nervous there. (Oksana chuckles.). It changes one's attitude. You could say that the whole experience is different, because the whole atmosphere is incomparable. You cannot help but be affected by it.
Q: Is the Olympic competition itself different too?
A: The same thing is more or less true for the competition, because there too you are always aware that it's a competition which is held only once every four years. What matters at that moment is whether you can capitalize on the work you've done lately. This requires tunnel vision. In Uzbekistan our coaches would often ask us to do a competition routine completely out of the blue, just like that. I think I'm benefiting from that now. Perhaps that's also why I'd start my competition without a one-touch warmup if I could.
Q: How important is your silver medal on vault to you, compared with the gold medal you won with the team [back in 1992]?
A: My individual medal means much more to me, and not just because I won it at age 33. It's much harder to win an individual medal. It's a personal challenge. The gold medal I gave to my mother, to thank her for everything. The silver medal I'm keeping here with me.
Q: Since then the media have only become more interested in you.
A: You can say that again, although really, they have been very interested in me ever since the Stuttgart Worlds. Apparently you get more interesting when you have a medal [and a good story, notes the editor of the interview]. I'm obviously getting a lot of attention, even when I'm injured. I may not get recognized wherever I go, but people definitely come up to talk to me.
Q: Where will you spend Christmas?
A: I will fly to Uzbekistan with my family just before Christmas. I'll be back in early January, as Alisher will have to get back to school. Besides, I still have to arrange a few things for my next operation, and I'll have to get back to training as well.
Q: How is Christmas celebrated in Uzbekistan?
A: Not on December 24 at any rate! To us January 6 is Christmas, but we deal with the presents and the celebrations on New Year's Eve. That's when the presents for the children are quietly placed in front of the door and the bell is rung. The thing is not to get caught, which isn't always easy.
Q: Where do you feel at home?
A: To me, home is Germany and Uzbekistan. To Alisher it's Cologne.