Bulgarian gymnast Jordan Jovtchev stumbled as he dismounted from the rings, but the grin on his face said he did not really mind.
The 39-year-old was just relieved that he was done.
“I’m glad it’s over because we’ve been practising really hard,” he told reporters on Monday after the Olympics men’s rings final. “Now I’m going to take care of myself a little bit, see my family.”
Eight years the senior of the next oldest rings finalist, Jovtchev won his first international medal in 1995, and in his career has scooped four Olympics medals, 13 at the world championships and nine at the Europeans.
Lauded at home in Bulgaria, where he leads the gymnastics federation, and by the crowd in London who gave him rapturous applause, he is also the first male gymnast to compete in six Games and was suffering the aches and pains of a long career.
“My knee hurts!,” he said, ruffling his hand through greying hair. “It’s difficult. Every day it’s a different thing, now it’s my knee!”
Tired and suffering with a partially torn bicep during qualification nine days ago, Jovtchev was not expecting to make the final, but squeezed through in the final spot.
By putting himself through the gruelling training needed to maintain himself at the top level, he had said he hoped to inspire the next generation to follow his footsteps.
I read elsewhere that he felt he had to compete because if the Bulgarian Gymnastics Federation didn’t send a team to the Olympics, they would major lose government funding, and a lot of people who work for the federation would lose their jobs. Either way, pretty amazing.