Oksana Chusovitina, silver vault final medalist, was competing in the same competitions as Nastia Liukin's coach/dad Valeri:
Chusovitina's career has spanned three nationalities. Before 1993, she competed for the Soviet Union. From 1994-2006 she competed for Uzbekistan, and now she represents Germany.
She is practically old enough to be the mother of some of the kids she competes against. Her sensible short haircut is a clue she doesn't quite fit in with the ponytailed teens, but her body blends right in. Chusovitina is a compact bundle of muscle. Watching her race down the vault runway and launch herself into the air, nobody in the National Indoor Stadium would have guessed this same woman won a team Olympic gold with Soviet's Unified Team at the 1992 Barcelona Games.
Well, nobody but Valeri Liukin, father and coach of Nastia Liukin. He was a 1988 Olympic champion for Russia, and he remembers Chusovitina well. "We used to compete together in the same meets," he said. "It is unbelievable that she is still out there, and winning a medal. I can't even describe how amazing that is. It is very, very difficult to do the stuff she's doing. I guess that's why she's the only 33-year-old out there."
Added Johnson: "She is definitely an inspiration to all of us. I don't know how her body holds up. I'm already hurting and I'm only 16."
On the same day that 41-year-old mother Dara Torres won two silver medals in the swimming pool, Chusovitina proved there is room in gymnastics for older athletes.
"When I'm talking to my teammates, I feel like a young girl, and when I talk to the coaches, I feel like a woman," she said. "As long as I love gymnastics and have fun every day, I will continue to compete."
She did not rule out training through the 2012 Olympics in London. "By then I'll be 37, and if I have the chance, I can do a sixth Olympics."
That's the way to do it - talk to your teammates like you're one of them, and to the coaches like an adult.
Alicia Sacramone on the other hand, at 20 years old, took the role of the team parent, didn't work out for her, as her coach Mihai confirms:
"Bondy: Cruel world of gymnastics takes toll on Sacramone (New York Daily News)" - http://www.gymchat.com/messageboards/showthread.php?t=75852
Not quite as chipper was Alicia Sacramone, the U.S. team captain. She was eager to redeem herself after falling on the beam and the floor exercise during the team competition, mistakes that hurt the U.S.'s chances for gold. The team settled for silver, and no matter how many times her teammates told her it wasn't her fault, she felt responsible.
She ended up in fourth place on vault Sunday, one spot from a medal.
"It was really hard to go back into the gym after what happened, but I kept training," she said, her voice cracking. "I'm a lot stronger than I thought I was. Maybe it will make me a better person going what I went through. Someday I'll fully appreciate my experience here."
Shawn Johnson, winning attitude:
"She stuck all her landings and had amazing execution," Johnson said of Izbasa. "My landings could have been better, but I have no regrets. I'm having the time of my life."
Nastia dreamed she had won the AA title the night before, in the same room as her teammate Shawn Johnson, who won AA silver:
[quote]So is Liukin, the all-around gold medalist. She revealed that she had a dream she won the all-around title the night before it happened. "I had the pink leotard on. I remember coming off the floor routine and hugging my dad. And he had on a white shirt, which is what he ended up wearing. Then I woke up and see Shawn (Johnson) sleeping, and I'm like, 'Darnit! Why can't that be true?' I have never had such a visual dream. It felt so real, and then it turned out to be true." [/quote]
Floor final photo, Romania's Sandra Izabas won Romania's first gymnastics gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.