In any sport, a two-decade professional career (or elite level, as we'd translate in gymnastics) is pretty darn rare. But in the sport where retirees are in their teens, it's unheard of. Unless you are Oksana Chusovitina.
Oksana first became well-known competing for the Soviet Union at the 1990 Goodwill Games. But she really made a name for herself at the 1991 World Championships, where she won the gold on floor with the most killer full-twisting double layout, like, ever. Because it's a full-OUT! Watch this. Watch this!!!
It's sort of a shaky video but this particular competition was really her best performance of the layout full-out, followed by a really nifty tucked full-out. More people really should do full-outs instead of full-ins, because they look so cool! (What's the difference, you ask? A full-in means you twist on the first flip of your double back, a full-out means you twist on the second flip. Cooler!)
So fast foward to 2011 at nearly 36 years old--THIRTY-SIX!--a THIRTY-SIX YEAR OLD MOTHER, for crying out loud!--and she's still at the top of her game.
Oksana's competed for the Soviet Union, the Unified Team, Uzbekistan, and finally Germany (she moved there to get the best treatment for her son when he had leukemia). She's been in 5 Olympic Games--6 if she can hold out till next year. And if you ask me, I would be so bold as to call her not only the best gymnast of all time, but the best female athlete of all time.