Everyone remembers Nadia Comaneci in 1976 when she became first gymnast to score a perfect 10 in Olympic competition. She was only 14 at the time. But before Nadia’s amazing performance, women earning medals in gymnastics had been older – in their 20s or even 30s! In fact, a Hungarian gymnast won gold medals at the 1956 Olympics at the age of 35!
Nadia changed the norm and set the trend for younger gymnasts. In 1981, the Federation International of Gymnastics (FIG) changed the age limit to participate in the Olympics from 14 to 15 and then from 15 to 16 in 1997. The rules also changed to let gymnasts to specialize in specific events, instead of having to compete in the all-around. This means an older gymnast has the choice of focusing on areas where she excels.
Older athletes are showing that they only get better with age. They have proven to have steadier nerves; they help sustain team spirit; and they are less likely to melt down after a loss. As long as you continue to work hard and treat your body right, no one can tell you that you are too old for gymnastics!
Consider the following female gymnasts:
Oksana Chusovitina competed in the 2016 Olympics at the age of 41 and set the world record as the oldest gymnast to compete. Before then, she had competed on the national team of Germany for 7 years and Uzbekistan for 18 years.
Aly Raisman (22) and Gabby Douglas (21) won a gold medal in the team event at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The gold medals in the individual all-around and event finals at RIO were won by 19-year-old Simone Biles, 21-year-old Aliya Mustafina, and 24-year-old Sanne Wevers.
22-year-old Giulia Steingruber, 21-year-old Maria Paseka, 19-year-old Madison Kocian and 19-year-old Sophie Scheder also earning places on the RIO podium
And then there’s the amazing Johanna Quaas. As of 2017, Johanna Quaas is the oldest gymnast in the world at the age of 92! She’s living proof that age does not have to prevent you from following your dreams. Although she hasn’t competed in the Olympics or the world championships, she is a regular competitor at amateur competitions in Saxony, Germany. And has no plans to retire!
The bottom line is that being an older gymnast these days is becoming more and more the norm. So – live your dream as long as you can! And don’t forget that the Olympics is not the only way to compete. Participating in college gymnastics is an incredible way to reach your peak performance, hone your skills to perfection, and enjoy the excitement of competition in the company of your peers!