If you have been anything like me the past two weeks your Eyes have been glued to the television watching the Olympics in Rio. Ever since I was a little girl, I have LOVED the Olympics. I will stay up way past my bedtime to cheer on my country. I love them so much in fact, that if cow tipping was an Olympic sport, I would stay up to the wee hours of the morning cheering on team USA.
Of course I have cheered on the favorites of Phelps, Ledecky, Biles, Felix, and Bolt. Each one an inspiration and a pride to their country. However, on Sunday, during the ladies vault final in gymnastics, I found myself inspired by someone I had never even heard of before.
Her name is Oksana Chusovitina.
Ever heard of her? Me either… until Sunday. She walked out to compete in the vault final, and I thought, “just another gymnast”, but then, I started listening to what was being said about her.
Oksana is 41 years old and is competing in her SEVENTH Olympics. Most of her competitors where not even born when Oksana went to her first Olympics in 1992. She has a son who at the age of 17 is the same age as some of her rivals.
As I sat on my couch, eating my popcorn, and massaging my aching joints, I realized I was watching a TRUE Olympic champion. As a 41 year old woman myself, I struggle walking down the stairs in the morning and not peeing on myself when I laugh, and here she was… competing not just in the Olympics, but an Olympic final.
So I had to immediately Google her…..
Chusovitina’s career as an elite gymnast has spanned more than a quarter century. She won the USSR Junior Nationals in 1988 and began competing at the international level in 1989, before many of her current rivals were even born. She is the only female gymnast ever to compete in seven Olympic Games, and is one of only two female gymnasts to compete at the Olympics under three different national teams: the Unified Team in 1992; Uzbekistan in 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2016; and Germany in 2008 and 2012. Chusovitina has also competed in 10 World Championships, three Asian Games and three Goodwill Games. Chusovitina holds the record for the most individual world championships medals on a single event (nine, on the vault).
One would think at 41 years old, she would be taking it easy on the ole body, doing easy vaults, playing it safe…..WRONG. Chusovitina attempted what is known as the Vault of Death…. SAY WHAT? If there is anything with the word death in it, this old lady avoids it at all cost. There are gymnast half her age who won’t even think of attempting such a dangerous vault.
But Oksana went out like a Boss and did the vault. She didn’t stick it, but not once did she flinch, look worried, panic, or frown. She jumped up, gave her smile and wave and immediately went for her next vault. When all was said and done, she came in 7th place. Not too shabby, for someone who was supposed to have retired 24 years ago. When asked why she kept doing it, she answered with the simple and yet most honest answer,
“Because I love it.”
As I watched this amazing lady, I could not help think of my life and how incredibly fast I am to stop myself from doing something because of my age. Just because I think, “I’m too old” I stop. I let my age, not my drive or my heart decide when I need to stop following my dreams.
Recently I was hiking down a trail and I ran into a local legend around these parts, Mr. Valentine.
Mr. Valentine is 83 years old and every Saturday for the past 70 years he has climbed up to Mt. LeConte taking the steepest most difficult climb up. He isn’t fast, and now days he usually just makes it up just 3/4 of the way before having to turn around. Most people don’t even make it that far. It doesn’t matter that he gets winded easily or that his bones start to ache, and the climb is difficult on his 83 year old body…he loves it, and intends to keep on doing it until he is physically not able.
So here is a shout out to all those who, by the world standards, are past their prime, yet are still out there day after day doing what they love and getting the job done. You may not get the recognition you deserve, but trust me…. people are watching and taking notice.
And here is to all those ladies born in 1975…just like Oksana, who remind us, that yeah, we’re 41, but we are still the freaking bomb!