Oksana Chusovitina Is No Longer the Oldest Olympic Gymnast

Oksana Chusovitina is not the oldest Olympian in Women’s Artistic Gymnastics (WAG). For many TMC readers, they probably just assumed that with more Olympic appearances than anyone else, Oksana Chusovitina is the oldest of all time. Others are probably confused by the title of this article as they could have sworn that somewhere in the past they had read that she was.

And none of those readers would be wrong.

Oksana Chusovitina was thought to have been the oldest Olympic WAG up until this week when newly discovered research revealed that due to a case of “mistaken identity” 1928 British gymnast Queenie Judd had been entered into the database under the wrong birth year. Previously, she had been listed under a 1909 birth year. But it has since been learned that she was actually born in, wait for it:

1886

For those trying to work out the math here, it means Queenie Judd was 23 years older than previously realized. She competed at the Olympics at the age of 41 years, 9 months. Oksana Chusovitina’s Rio Olympics record was 41 years, 2 months. This seven month difference is extremely close considering the (now) third oldest Olympic WAG is 37 months behind Oksana Chusovitina.

NameCountryOlympicsAge
Queenie JuddGreat Britain192841 Years
9 Months
Oksana ChusovitinaUzbekistan201641 Years
2 Months
Pat HirstGreat Britain195638 Years
1 Month
Jessie KiteGreat Britain192836 Years
3 Months
Agnes KeletiHungary195635 Years
11 Months

This research was provided by Connor Mah of OlyMadMen using information from Gymnastics History. I’d also like to thank Hilary Evans (also of OlyMadMen) for contacting me about this change. They dedicate a lot of their time providing Olympic sports fans with a wonderful database.

UPDATE: Check out Hilary Evans and Connor Mah’s commentary at the bottom of this article where they explain the “mistaken “identity” aspect of this story.

In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter all that much as Oksana Chusovitina is slated to retake this record and keep it for good at the 2021 Olympics. But it is noteworthy to inform gymnastics fans of this detail as the historic moment when Oksana Chusovitina officially becomes the oldest Olympian is ahead of us rather than behind of us. Gymnastics fans need no introduction to Oksana Chusovitina, so let’s talk about Queenie Judd.

Oksana Chusovitina 2012 Olympics

Her full name was Isabel Mary Raven Judd, but she was known under two different nicknames, “Queenie” and “Bokie.” Besides having an awesome name, her backstory is pretty impressive. Her 1886 birth year is impressive because this is a female athlete who hit her teenage years in the late 1890s. This was an incredibly sexist era in women’s sports history. Not only was there practically no organized athletic competition available for women, but the stigma was so extreme that women were frequently discouraged from partaking in any form of high level exercise at all.

Back then it was argued women were too fragile to participate in high level sports and they needed to be “protected” from strenuous labor. As a result, this generation of female athletes had been limited mostly to sports where they wouldn’t appear out of breath or break a sweat. This left women limited mostly to the “standing still” sports such as golf, shooting, and archery.

In fact, the very first mention of women’s Olympic gymnastics came in 1900 where a contingent of women competed in a “gymnastics” competition which was held as an exhibition event and thus, they weren’t eligible for medals. But the “gymnastics” event they competed in was not balance beam or vault, it was pistol shooting. Yes, you read that correctly. The first generation of Olympic WAGs had guns.

Queenie Judd (1934)

That was the mentality Queenie Judd had to overcome, and her first gymnastics club was the St. Saviour’s Church Ladies Club. At one point during her career while she was living in France, Queenie “nearly cried her eyes out” after learning the local gymnastics club did not allow women.

When Queenie competed at the 1928 Olympics, it was WAG’s debut at the Olympic level. At the time Queenie was 41 and I do wonder if that “1886” birth year is the source of the mistaken identity. That somewhere in the past it had been discarded in favor of the 1909 birth year as it was far more believable. When Oksana Chusovitina appeared in the Olympic Games at the age of 41, her presence symbolized all she had had to overcome just to remain at that level. For Queenie, the opposite is true. Her Olympic appearance at the age of 41 represents what she had to overcome just to get to that level.

Like many of the top gymnasts in the early history of WAG, they often trained as active athletes, while simultaneously serving as a coach for other young aspiring WAGs. That was Queenie Judd, who needed to travel 14 miles on her bicycle just to get to her home club. But was known to travel to other clubs just to help lend her knowledge to the next generation of gymnasts.

Like Chusovitina, Queenie Judd competed in the Olympics while also being a mother. At the time she had a 14 year old daughter which is also a significant detail because Queenie Judd competed against the youngest team in WAG history. Whereas most assume the youngest team in WAG history came during the “little girl” era back when girls like Nadia Comaneci were running the show in the 1970s, it was actually 1928 Italy.

The 1928 team was absurdly young, so young in fact that Queenie had a 14 year old daughter who was older than many of them. Italian gymnast Luigina Giavotti was just 11 years old. This meant there was a 30 year age gap between the two competitors and Queenie was nearly 4x Luigina’s age. Ironically, the oldest and youngest Olympians in WAG history competed at the very same Olympics.

They both won medals.

Because Italy won the silver medal in the team competition while Great Britain won the bronze medal, these aren’t just the oldest and youngest participants, but the oldest and youngest Olympic medalists as well. The three youngest Olympic medalists in WAG history are three members of the 1928 Italian team. While the two oldest medalists are Queenie and her teammate Jessie Kite.

NameCountryOlympicsAge
Queenie JuddGreat Britain192841 Years
9 Months
Jessie KiteGreat Britain192836 Years
3 Months
Agnes KeletiHungary195635 Years
11 Months
Zdena VermirovskaCzechoslovakia194835 Years
2 Months
Helena RakoczyPoland195634 Years
11 Months

So while Oksana Chusovitina is all but certain to break the record for being the oldest Olympic participant in WAG, there’s a very strong chance that Queenie Judd will retain the record for being the oldest Olympic medalist. I know fans are rooting for Oksana because she is the fan favorite of the modern era. But I hope some recognition can be afforded to Queenie as well. Her record is every bit as powerful and tells the story of a trailblazer who paved a way for future gymnasts including Oksana Chusovitina.

Oksana Chusovitina

5 thoughts on “Oksana Chusovitina Is No Longer the Oldest Olympic Gymnast

  1. Interesting – “mistaken identity” that is discovered after all this years?A bit suspicious, isn’t it?…

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    1. To explain what we found.

      Basically, the 1928 Olympics was very light on details of the competitors.
      All everyone knew 40-50 years ago was that “Isabel MB Judd” competed and won a bronze.
      An Olympic historian thought he’d made the link between her “Isabel Rose Mercy Judd” born 1909.
      Because it didn’t match perfectly Conor checked it out and, in the process made contact with some of the real “Queenie”‘s decendents.
      They were able to provide the information that the real gymnast was “Isabel Mary Raven Judd” born 1886

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      1. To further illustrate how light the preexisting information was – she was only known in most sources from the 1920s as “Mrs. Judd” (most common) or “I. M. R. Judd”, never by her actual name or nickname – a common occurrence with early Olympic athletes that did not medal or competed in team sports.

        The Isabel Judd born in 1909 was not married in 1928, and Judd was her maiden, not married name (even that tiny newspaper clue of “Mrs.” proved to be helpful).

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