Age Is Just A Number

October 19th, 2008 by Gymbit

On the heels of the controversy surrounding the ages of the Chinese gymnasts in Beijing, I have decided to do an about-face and turn my attention to those at the other end of the spectrum: the gymnasts who continue to compete despite the common belief that gymnastics is a young person’s sport.

I recently discovered footage of a 63-year-old Japanese gymnast named Wakamatsu. His love for the sport shines through in his inspirational performances on all six events, competing against much younger teammates. He swings giants on the high bar with ease and he even attempts an iron cross on rings!

Wakamatsu, All Events

After discovering Wakamatsu’s talents, I delved deeper into the subject of older gymnasts and my attention was drawn to a 50-year-old female gymnast known as gymmako, who is seen swinging giants and catching Giengers and Jaegers on the uneven bars. She is also working on a half-in half-out dismount, twisting in both directions!

gymmako, Gienger

Even within the Elite gymnastics scene, the ages of top athletes are ever rising. The average age of the female gymnasts at the 2008 Beijing Olympics was 18.6, a far cry from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics when Svetlana Boginskaya was considered over-the-hill at age 19! I used to snicker at the fact that Larisa Latynina had already given birth to two children when she won so many of her World and Olympic medals, but even in recent years there have been three mothers on the competition floor: Leyanet Gonzalez, Suzanne Harmes and Oksana Chusovitina.

Although I can’t say Chusovitina’s gymnastics style makes her one of my favourites, I do have tremendous respect for her tenacity and her ability to remain at the top of her sport. Starting in 1990, she has competed for the USSR, the CIS, Uzbekistan and now Germany, all the while amassing an impressive medal collection. Her powerful tumbling and vaulting raised the bar in international competition. Chusovitina’s first World title on the floor exercise was won in 1991 before many of her current rivals were even born! One of the highlights in Beijing was seeing this 33-year-old place 9th in the All-Around and win the Silver medal on vault…in her FIFTH Olympic Games. Fantastic!

Oksana Chusovitina Montage


And that’s not all. At the 2012 Cottbus World Cup, Johanna Quaas (GER) performed a demonstration on floor and parallel bars at the age of 86. Yes, 86! She has a lightness to her movement, and she demonstrates front and back rolls, a handstand roll, cat leap, scissor leap and even headstand on floor. On the parallel bars she showed rolling elements, balances, and even a strength element. Fantastic!

Johanna Quaas, Parallel Bars

Johanna Quaas, Floor

Also, it’s interesting to note that Oksana Chusovitina (GER) and Jordan Jovtchev (BUL) are competing in the 2012 Olympic Games as we speak, and both have qualified to an apparatus final (vault for Chusovitina and rings for Jovtchev). I wish them the best of luck! Tune in for another update in 2016…!

6 Responses to “Age Is Just A Number”

  1. RJL Says:

    Great website! It would be awesome to see Chusovitina compete in London 2012 – she’d be 37! She said she still has fun every day and hasn’t ruled it out. I think Jordan Jovtchev has competed in 5 Olympic Games as well. Keep up the good work! 🙂

  2. Spring Chicken :-) Says:

    I didn’t get to see Chusovitina compete at the Olympics, but followed her results, and was so impressed! Watching the video montage you posted, it made me realize that she competed on both the vault horse and the vault table – being able to switch from one to the other, while competing at a world-class level, says quite a lot about her strength and tenacity. There’s hope for me yet! haha One of the recent IGs also had a spot on a mother of two (in her 30s, I think) in the USA who was working on her level 8/9… awesome!

    Fantastic blog!

  3. Jen Says:

    Fantastic website!!!!

  4. Janie Says:

    ohh wow!! this was soo fantastic! I can believe the 64 year old man, I am soo impress! Actually, I can’t believe the 3 videos! Chusovitina obviously didn’t look like she had children on that video!

    Good job, this website is really intersting!

  5. Ray Says:

    Congrats to these old-lympians! Determination. Resolve. Spirit.

    Now, take something from their inspiration and get us a second post already! 😉

  6. Jessica Says:

    Your blog is incredibly well researched and looks amazing!!! I can’t wait to see more!

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