39-year-old Bulgarian Gymnast Completes in his Sixth Olympics


There are so many things about the Olympics that are incredible, but for me, the most amazing part is how these games can unite the world like no other event can. At the Opening Ceremony there were 204 countries represented from around our world, standing peacefully together in one arena. All are different, but all connected in our global community. What an awe-inspiring picture of our world!

One of the flag-bearers at the Ceremony was Yordan Jovtchev, representing Bulgaria in Men’s Gymnastics. You may have noticed him if you watched the Opening Ceremony, as he was likely the only salt-and-pepper haired gymnast, at almost 40! He definitely earned the honor of waving his flag and leading his country into the arena. Not only is Yordan the oldest gymnast to compete in London, he is the first gymnast to compete in six Olympic games.

This four time Olympic medalist is also connected to the US. He actually made his first world debut in Indianapolis about 20 years ago. He resided in the US from 1996 to 2007 training and coaching US gymnasts. In 2007 he moved back to Bulgaria in an effort to revitalize the struggling gymnastics federation in Bulgaria, and he is doing just that.

Even though he did not win gold, he was stunned to have even qualified for still rings. Yordan reported having a partially torn bicep and broken right wrist. Jovtchev’s shoulders and biceps are so badly damaged that his body could only endure 90 minutes of training per week. It is unbelievable to think his teenage competitors trained for what amounts to a full time job each week, while Jovtchev’s trains for what would amount to a long lunch once a week.

He readily acknowledges his limitations in this physically demanding sport and has no visions of grandeur, but rather just wanted to get through it. His goal in this Olympics is to make a name for the Bulgarian team, as Bulgaria’s gymnastics federation’s President. So far he has done just that, and has created a lot of buzz around the Bulgarian team. The successes that he has had in Olympic games has been crucial for the financial survival of gymnastics as a sport in Bulgaria. The Bulgarian government is now is helping to subsidize the sport and they are currently building a new gym, in large part because of Yordan and the sacrifices he is making for upcoming Bulgarian gymnasts.

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