Oksana Chusovitina’s epic career provides many reasons to be tearful | Emma John

The gymnast, still competing at the world championships at the age of 43, once vaulted for her son’s life. Her longevity has paved the way for other mothers to remain in the sport

I don’t care who knows it: gymnastics makes me cry. In a good way, I should add, not in an “is this the only sport BBC still has rights to?” way. It doesn’t matter if it’s Gabby Douglas becoming the first black gymnast to win the Olympic all-around title, or Epke Zonderland falling from the high bar and landing flat on his nose. There is something about the sheer ambition of gymnastics – coupled with the generous camaraderie that makes rivals look like the best of friends – that’s more tearjerking than an entire afternoon of Hallmark Christmas movies.

This year’s world championships were always going to be emotional. And while Simone Biles’s record-breaking return to competition gave my lip a dangerous quiver, it was one of her competitors in the vault final that broke the dam. Her name was Oksana Chusovitina, and I last saw her perform two years ago at the Olympic Games in Rio. Back then, we held our breath as she prepared to execute the Produnova, the so-called vault of death – a highly dangerous routine even Biles herself had balked at because, she said “I’m not trying to die”.

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