Thursday, Jul. 24, 2008

64. Oxana Chusovitina

Age: 33

When Oxana Chusovitina competes in her fifth Olympics — something no other female gymnast has done — she is going to be old enough to be the mother of most of her competitors. But Uzbek-born Chusovitina proved on several occasions that there is more to her sport than supple muscle and young bones, most recently at this year's European championship where she won gold at vault, beating 15 year-old Russian wunderkind Ksenia Semenova. The athlete's extraordinary career has partly been driven by a harsh blow of fate: her son Alisher, now 9 years old, was diagnosed with lymphocytic leukemia in 2002, which prompted Chusovitina to move to Germany in order to be able to provide medical treatment to him. But saving Alisher's life is not her only motivation, as she recently told German weekly Der Spiegel: "There is nothing in the world I enjoy more than gymnastics".