39-year-old Bulgarian gymnast to compete in record 6th Olympics
SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) -- Bulgarian gymnast Jordan Jovtchev is taking extra pride in qualifying for the London Olympics.
Jovtchev, who turns 39 next month, qualified for his sixth Olympics on Tuesday at the test event at the O2 Arena. In a sport that prizes youth, Jovtchev's staying power is every bit as impressive as his skills.
"It is terrific for me as a Bulgarian to take part in six Olympic games," he told the Presa newspaper on Thursday. "How many countries can list a similar achievement? So, why should we not be proud about this?"
Germany's Oksana Chusovitina also will be competing in her sixth Olympics. Chusovitina, who turns 37 in June, helped the German women qualify for the London Games during the world gymnastics championships last fall.
Jovtchev is a four-time Olympic medalist, having won a silver on still rings, his specialty, and a bronze on floor exercise at the 2004 Olympics in Athens after winning bronzes on both events four years earlier in Sydney. He's also won 13 medals at the world championships, including the titles on both rings and floor in 2003 and 2001.
His last medal was a silver on rings at the 2009 world championships, also in London. But he believes he'll be free from the pressure of needing to win a medal when it comes to the next competition in London.
"This time I will compete in a more relaxed way, because I know that I don't need to win a medal at any price," Jovtchev said.
Jovtchev, who has been head of Bulgaria's gymnastics federation since 2009, said that successes such as his qualification for the Olympics were crucial for the financial survival of gymnastics as a sport in Bulgaria.
It also meant he could play down his prospects.
"Of course, I want to win the Olympic title, but I'm not sure whether it is doable," he said.
Jovtchev, who was nursing a muscle injury, qualified for one of the individual Olympic spots available at the test event. Jovtchev's illustrious career is likely to end after the London Games, and he said his age doesn't allow him to take unjustified risks.
"I have always wanted to step down in the best possible way," he said.
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