What if Oksana Chusovitina Competed in a Different Era?

Now that Oksana Chusovitina has formally declared for the Paris-2024 Olympics, the story has me thinking about the significance of her becoming a 9x Olympian. In its history Soviet women’s artistic gymnastics (WAG) made only nine official appearances at the Olympics under its own flag. If Chusovitina were to succeed in her goal of making the 2024 Olympics, it means she would have as many Olympic appearances as Soviet WAG had in its entire history.

This particular detail has me thinking of how interesting Chusovitina’s career timeline is when you compare it to various moments of WAG history. For example, if Chusovitina was a late 1950s gymnast who accomplished the same amount of longevity, she would have been teammates with just about every Soviet legend that has ever been associated with the program.

To contextualize this, what if we assume regardless of which year Oksana Chusovitina makes her senior debut, she will always achieve the same longevity she is known for? What if we say Oksana Chusovitina didn’t make her debut at the 1991 World Championships, but competed instead at the 1958 World Championships? What sort of historic moments would Oksana Chusovitina witness as a gymnast in the next eight Olympics from 1958 and onwards? What sort of whacky overlaps would Chusovitina’s 33 year career create?

I decided to measure Chusovitina’s career length at 33 years because that is the time difference between 1991 and 2024. In 1991 Chusovitina made her senior debut at the Group-1 level (Olympics and/or World Championships) while she has pledged to continue at this level through the 2024 season. Coincidently, 33 years is also the exact time difference between her first ever appearance in a televised gymnastics competition featuring an Olympic caliber international field (1989) and her most recent such competition (2022).

Let’s begin:

If Oksana Chusovitina’s career had started in 1928…

She’d compete at the first Olympics ever. But the more noteworthy stat is this would occur just one year after Charles Lindbergh’s famed flight across the Atlantic, while the end of Oksana’s career would come in the same year Yuri Gagarin flew into outer space.

If Oksana Chusovitina’s career had started in 1939…

Oksana would be a veteran of the pre-World War II era of gymnastics while the midway point of her career would overlap with Vera Caslavska and Larissa Latynina in what is often called the classical era of gymnastics. But the conclusion of her career would occur in the Korbut era.

If Oksana Chusovitina’s career had started in 1948…

She’d compete for the Soviet program in eras where its top gymnast was 31 years old (Galina Urbanovich) and allegedly only 13 years old (Olga Bicherova).

If Oksana Chusovitina’s career had started in 1949…

At the start of her career Soviet WAGs were still training on Rings and High Bar while the end of her career would feature teammates that were capable of Yurchenko-style vaults.

If Oksana Chusovitina’s career had started in 1953…

She would have competed against both Larissa Latynina and Natalia Yurchenko.

Her career would have predated Larissa Latynina’s senior debut at the Group-1 Level while continuing even after Yurchenko’s retirement.

If Oksana Chusovitina’s career had started in 1957…

Her senior debut would occur prior to the Berlin Wall being built and she’d still be competing after it was torn down.

If Oksana Chusovitina’s career had started in 1958…

During her final World Championships one of Chusovitina’s teammates would celebrate her 15th birthday (Tatiana Gutsu). While at her first World Championships one of her teammates was competing while secretly pregnant (Larissa Latynina).

If Oksana Chusovitina’s career had started in 1960…

She would have witnessed both the Olympic debut of Vera Caslavska and the World Championships debut of Lilia Podkopayeva.

If Oksana Chusovitina’s career had started in 1961…

The United States would have had nine different Presidential administrations during her gymnastics career. Both Dwight D. Eisenhower and Bill Clinton would be Presidents while Chusovitina was actively competing.

If Oksana Chusovitina’s career had started in 1966…

She would have competed against Larissa Latynina, Vera Caslavska, Nadia Comaneci, and Svetlana Khorkina at the Group-1 level.

She also would have competed against American icons Cathy Rigby and Vanessa Atler.

If Oksana Chusovitina’s career had started in 1967…

She would have competed against Vera Caslavska at the Olympics while also witnessing the Sydney vault fiasco.

If Oksana Chusovitina’s career had started in 1970…

She would have watched both Ludmilla Turischeva and Carly Patterson win the first All-Around medals of their respective careers.

If Oksana Chusovitina’s career had started in 1974…

She would have competed against both Olga Korbut and Shawn Johnson.

Under this scenario Oksana’s career would predate Nadia Comaneci’s first perfect 10, while also competing in the era where the Perfect 10 was abolished (open ended scoring).

In other words, Oksana Chusovitina would been able to personally watch every Perfect 10 that was ever awarded in Group-1 level competition.

She would also compete in the eras where the World Championships were held once every four years, once every two years, and once every non-Olympic year.

If Oksana Chusovitina’s career had started in 1978…

She would have been present when Marcia Frederick won Team USA’s first ever gold medal in women’s gymnastics, while also competing against Gabby Douglas at the World Championships.

If Oksana Chusovitina’s career had started in 1980…

She would have watched both Elena Davydova and Simone Biles win All-Around titles.

If Oksana Chusovitina’s career had started in 1983…

She would have competed against both Olga Mostepanova and Angelina Melnikova.

If Oksana Chusovitina’s career had started in 1984…

Oksana would compete in an American Olympics, another American Olympics, and then witness the city from her first American Olympics win the bid to host the Olympics again while still actively competing.

If Oksana Chusovitina’s career had started in 2005…

At her 8th Olympics Chusovitina would be competing against gymnasts who aren’t even born yet (as of the writing of this article).

If Oksana Chusovitina’s career had started in 2020…

Viktoria Listunova would be 43 years old when Oksana Chusovitina competes in her 8th Olympics.

Aliya Mustafina’s daughter will be 31 years old.

Other Chuso articles:
Is Oksana Chusovitina the Last Soviet Athlete?
The Longevity of Oksana Chusovitina Visualized

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