It’s been almost 30 years since Oksana Chusovitina kicked off her Olympics journey, competing as a gymnast at the 1992 Barcelona Games.
On Sunday, Chusovitina finally bid farewell to the gruelling sport after competing in her eighth and final games.
She is the only gymnast to go to eight games, with Yordan Yochev, a Bulgarian gymnast, ranking second with his six games.
Daniele Matias Hypólito, a Brazilian gymnast, comes in third with five games under her belt.
Over the past 30 years, Chusovitina has competed for three different national teams at the Olympics- the Unified Team in 1992, a name used for the former Soviet Union; Uzbekistan in 1996, 2000, 2004, 2016 and 2021; and Germany in 2008 and 2012.
Chusovitina’s final fight for a medal sadly wasn’t meant to be as she missed out on a spot in the finals.
Chusovitina, competing for Ukraine, sobbed as she received a standing ovation from the small crowd, as she left the sport’s biggest stage for the last time.
The 46-year-old was targeting a place in the vault final, and was unable to hide her disappointment when she realised her score was not high enough to keep her in contention.
Athletes and coaches lined up to embrace the legendary athlete, who made her sporting debut in junior competitions in 1987, representing the Soviet Union.
“We thank her for her contributions to artistic gymnastics,” the announcer in Tokyo’s Ariake Gymnastics Centre said as teams, officials and journalists applauded.
She said later she had been crying “tears of happiness, because so many people have supported me for such a long time.
“I’m just so grateful,” she said.
Born in Uzbekistan in 1976, Chusovitina’s Olympic odyssey began in Barcelona in 1992, where she won team gold, adding silver in the vault in Beijing 2008.
She has stepped back from the sport before, but when her son Alisher was diagnosed with leukaemia, she returned to help pay his medical bills.