The Olympic year is always a busy season for gymnasts announcing retirement. Gymnasts often work their whole lives to make it to the Olympic Games, and while the sport is about more than just those five rings, when it doesn’t look like it’s going to work out, that’s reason enough for many to call it quits.
Earlier in the week, Viktoria Komova of Russia posted on her VK account that her back pain has been so bad this season, she’s been unable to train at a level that would get her to her second Olympic Games. While she never said the R word, Valentina Rodionenko told the press that Komova was retiring from the sport, though Komova’s father later corrected this in an interview with TASS.
“Vika really wants to go back to the gym, but her health won’t allow it,” Alexander Komov told TASS. “She can’t tolerate the pain that comes with training, and won’t be able to continue preparing for the Olympic Games, so she sees no point in training at all for the time being.”
He went on to state that her health is her biggest priority at the moment, but that if her pain gets better, “it is likely that she will return to the gym,” suggesting that she is not done completely yet, and will hope to make another return in the coming quad.
Komova returned to competition for the first time since the 2012 Olympic Games at last summer’s European Games before going on to win one of four gold medals on the uneven bars at world championships in Glasgow. Earlier this year, Rodionenko announced that Komova would most likely be on the team going to Rio along with her 2012 teammates Aliya Mustafina, Maria Paseka, and Ksenia Afanasyeva, though all but Mustafina are dealing with injury issues right now, so the team could continue to change as we get closer to August.
Aside from Komova’s decision to stop training this year, three gymnasts have officially announced their retirements, including 2012 Olympian Youna Dufournet of France following her final competition at this weekend’s French Championships in Mulhouse. Dufournet competed everywhere but floor at nationals, but failed to make the bars final and placed seventh on beam after a fall, showing that she wasn’t quite Olympic-ready after dealing with injuries over the past year.
Upon returning home, Dufournet posted her retirement announcement on Facebook. The 22-year-old talked about the many years she’d spent in the sport, listing her accomplishments: one Olympic Games, three world championships, five European championships, and 14 French championships. “I’ve stopped counting the number of hours I’ve trained and kilometers I’ve traveled,” she wrote in her heartfelt message. “I have given 200% of my body and soul to gymnastics throughout the years. I have no regrets.”
Though injuries and a gym change limited the talented gymnast’s potential, at the height of her career, she won European silver and worlds bronze for her work on vault, and was known for her difficult work on bars, though never medaled there in major international competition. In 2012, Dufournet was a favorite for the bars final, but when her grip slipped at no fault of her own, the flub caused her to place 17th in qualifications, coming up just short of making the final. Following the Games, Dufournet said she refused to go out on that note and vowed to make it to Rio, but she was again limited this quad, undergoing a shoulder surgery last year that took her out of competition for most of 2015.
Dufournet has lots going on in her life beyond gymnastics, including school, a job she loves, and “a lot of other wonderful surprises” in her future.
Also retiring are Kirsten Beckett of South Africa and Millie Williamson of New Zealand. Beckett made a name for herself at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, qualifying into four of five finals, an incredible feat for her country. With an injury in 2015, she was a bit limited, but still managed to win the All-Africa Games all-around title, though her next trip to Glasgow wasn’t as successful as her first. At worlds, she was hoping to earn a spot at the test event, but unfortunately had a rough day in qualifications and came up under a point shy of making it happen.
Beckett won the all-around bronze medal at this year’s African Championships and also competed at the challenge cup in Osijek, qualifying to the vault and floor finals, but decided that she is ready for a change. “I will forever be grateful and blessed for the foundation and opportunities gymnastics has given me,” she wrote on Facebook. “I am so grateful to have been a South African gymnast and my decision to change my direction and focus has been an incredibly difficult one to make. Thanks to gymnastics for all of the great years and accolades.”
Meanwhile, Williamson – who was one of New Zealand’s strongest gymnasts with so much talent and potential to do well in the sport – debuted as part of the young team that made waves at the 2012 Pacific Rim Championships, but injuries have kept her out of international competition since the Youth Olympic Games in 2014. With her senior debut supposed to happen in 2015, Williamson was expected to make it to worlds last year, but an ACL tear took her out of competition. While she fought back from it, she again tore her ACL for a second time about six weeks ago, ending her gymnastics career before she was able to fulfill her incredible potential.
“I am going to miss this sport and the people in it so much that words can’t even express it,” Williamson wrote on her Instagram. “I’m so upset it had to end like this but I am thankful for all the amazing years and memories this sport has given me.”
We wish all of these athletes the best of luck as they go forward and move on to other endeavors. Thank you for giving so much of your life to the sport, and you all will be missed!
Article by Lauren Hopkins