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40-Year-Old Female Gymnast Qualifies For 7th Olympics


Gymnastics is a young-person sport. Most of the women competing at the Summer Olympics in Brazil this year will be teenagers. One of them is old enough to be their mother. Forty-year-old Oksana Chusovitina will represent Uzbekistan in the vault competition. It will be her seventh Olympics.


UNIDENTIFIED COMMENTATOR: Oksana Chusovitina, now, from the Soviet Union is up next.

MCEVERS: Chusovitina first broke out during the 1991 World Championships. Her career includes two Olympic medals - one gold and one silver. U.S. gymnast Dominique Dawes won gold in 1996. And she has a theory about how the Uzbek gymnast has lasted so long.

DOMINIQUE DAWES: She's probably a smart athlete. Her muscles have memory, so she probably doesn't have to worry about having to do many repetitions, as many younger athletes may have to. And then, also, mentally, she's competed in six other Olympic Games and many world championships, so I'm sure she knows how to handle the pressure.

MCEVERS: Dawes has been retired for years, and she's not quite 40 herself. So could Chusovitina's story inspire her to rethink?

DAWES: No (laughter). I don't even - I don't even need to let you finish that sentence. There's no way. Three Olympics was more than enough for me. I love the sport of gymnastics. I actually just came from my coach Kelley Hill's gym in Maryland just now with my two daughters. And we love open gym. And we love that it's all about play. And mommy is completely done.

MCEVERS: So when will Oksana Chusovitina be done? It's probably a bad idea to guess. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.