The Olympic rules are simple: Gymnasts must be at least 16 years old to compete in the Olympics. There have been plenty of accusations about underage Chinese gymnasts on the ladies team, and it seems there’s evidence as well!
One only has to look at these girls to know they’re not 16 years old. Yes, a small frame and careful dieting can lead a 16 year old to be slim and mostly undeveloped. But there is a visible difference between that and the appearance of 12 and 14 year olds. We’re not stupid, and you can see the youth reflected in the faces of these young athletes.
- For a long time, elements of the Chinese government itself thought women’s gymnast He Kexin was born Jan. 1, 1994, which would make her 14 and too young to compete in these Summer Olympics… As recently as December 2007, in provincial gymnastics meets and news reports that covered it, she was a 13-year-old prodigy, too young for the 16-year-old Olympic age limit for gymnastics. Then, suddenly, she wasn’t. China produced her passport that claimed she was born Jan. 1, 1992, making her old enough to perform a brilliant uneven bar routine and push China to the women’s all around gold medal.
- The birth date of Yang Yilin was listed on official national registration lists posted by the General Administration of Sport of China website from 2004-2006 as a too-young Aug. 26, 1993, according to the AP. On her passport her birth date is Aug. 26, 1992.
- Jiang Yuyuan’s birthday was Oct. 1, 1993 as recently as a registration list for a 2007 competition. According to her passport she was born Nov. 1, 1991.
All three of these girls suddenly have passports that list their birthdays as occurring in 1991 and 1992, making them all magically 16 years old on paper. Chinese officials are saying that earlier media reports of the girls’ ages are incorrect. I don’t believe them.
And China apparently has a history of cheating with the girls’ ages:
Considering 2000 Chinese bronze medalist Yang Yun later admitted on state television she was 14 that year, the reported ages of He Kexin and at least two of her teammates have aroused suspicion in nearly everyone except the powers that be – the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Why does age matter? Younger girls have smaller bodies, and that makes it easier for them to do certain skills on the balance beam and vault…. a clear unfair advantage.
The Yahoo writer made a good point: If these girls really are 16 years and older, they deserve to have it proven so that their team gold medal isn’t tainted by suspicion. If they are not old enough and Chinese officials are lying, then that should be exposed too so that the playing field is leveled for all countries.