Once thought of as outsiders in a sport that many considered exclusively for underaged, underweight pixies, gymnastics veterans worldwide are dominating the podium so far this season. Today, two-time Olympian Beth Tweddle, 26, from Great Britain won the uneven bars gold medal at the Doha Cup in Qatar. Days earlier, Romanian 2004 Olympic medalist Catalina Ponor, 24, topped the qualification standings on the balance beam and placed second in qualification on the floor. The finals on those two events have not been held yet.
In Russia, older gymnasts also dominated the scene at their national championships, held on March 25. Anna Pavlova, 24, a two-time Olympian that many had written out after a series of injuries, won the gold medal on vault.
“Oksana [Chusovitina, 36] was born in  and continues to vault brilliantly and earn medals at worlds, Europeans and the Olympic Games,” Pavlova said to International Gymnast magazine. “I believe age is not an obstacle. And Oksana has had plenty of injuries.”
Oksana Chusovitina, originally from Uzbekistan/the Soviet Union but now competing for Germany, has been at every Olympic Games since 1992 and is still going strong. Older gymnasts, like Pavlova, look to her as inspiration. Photo via NBCOlympics.com
At the same championship, Aliya Mustafina, 18, a World Championship veteran recovering from an ACL knee injury, easily won the uneven bars title by almost two full points. Ksenia Afanasyeva, 20, a 2008 Olympian, captured the balance beam gold.
As the Olympic Games draw nearer, other veterans, many coming back from serious injuries, are expected to be major contenders in competition. The USA’s 2008 Olympian Alicia Sacramone, 24, who is recovering from an Achilles tendon injury, has announced her return to competition for this year’s Visa National Championships. Two other American 2008 Olympians, Shawn Johnson, 20, and Nastia Liukin, 22, also came out of retirement and are fighting for spots in the 2012 Olympic team.