Thursday, August 14, 2008

They Tried to Tell Us We're Too Young ...

So, the Chinese women's gymnastic team is partially underage. The rule seems to be that you must be sixteen sometime during the Olympic year to qualify to compete, and two of these little girls, He Kexin and Jiang Yuyuan are a couple years shy of that.

They used to be younger, according to birth records, but somehow when passports got issued, they aged just enough to qualify, and everybody in gymnastics knows that the Chinese government was complicit in the matter. So, sorry, but the passport is the official document, yes?

Look at the picture. Click on it and look closer. If anybody believes that little girl on the right is sixteen, they need to trade in their seeing-eye dog. Yes, women's gymnastics does stunt the growth; it delays the onset of puberty, and favors little bitty girls when it comes to flying and landing. But she's fourteen -- and looks eleven. The old lady on the team, who is twenty, could pass for fourteen herself. If you took any of them out on a date, any jury in America would convict you for being a pedophile ...

And people are bitching, especially Americans. The Chinese cheated, they say. But you know what? Being beaten by a couple of fourteen-year-olds wouldn't be something you'd want to wave around too much. Truth is, those underage kids got it done. Remember Nadia Comaneci? She was but fourteen when she won in the '76 Olympics.

(Of course, you could make a case that women's gymnastics at this level is child abuse, and I wouldn't argue with you.)

I watched the competition in Beijing. The Americans had a couple of major errors, sure enough, but the Chinese won it fair and square. That's the way it goes ...


VC said...

It's still cheating. If the kids were too old, say 15 year olds playing in 13 and under football, would the response still be the same? An unfair advantage is still unfair.

Todd Erven said...

I watched it as well. The Americans screwed up multiple times where as the Chinese girls nailed almost everything.

They say that it's unfair because if the girls are only 14, they are lighter and have less fear of the pressure. I'm not sure if I buy that excuse. Besides, I'd think that 2 more years of experience/practice would more than make up for being a little lighter. But then again, I'm no gymnast.

In the couple of quick interviews with the American gymnasts that I saw, they brushed it off. It could have been that they were told not to comment but it seemed to me they were admitting that the Chinese team simply had a better game this time around.

Ed said...

Liukin - Gold --- gracefull and Johnson - Silver --- boundless energy and focus --- and she looks young too. But come on --- China couldn't find some older girls in a country of how many billion - they need a new scout. In another 4 years - look out and they will still only be 16 or 17 or???. NBC - show some shooting sports - or combine them with gymnastics, that would get interesting but I wouldn't want to be in the stands.

Steve Perry said...

A fifteen-year-old playing football against thirteen-year-olds would probably have an advantage, but gymnastics isn't football, and nobody has shown that ten years of training is better than twelve years of training, nor is being the smallest competitor.

I don't think the analogy holds.

Looking at the individual all-around, the older and more experienced American girls took first and second, and the third-place Chinese girl got there as a gift -- the Russian and Romanian girls did better routines, especially on the high bar and beam.

As happens often in gymnastics, the scoring last night was criminal in spots.

I'm not a gymnast, but when I was in junior high, I dabbled a bit, because our gym coach was big into it. In the three years he was there, our school got all the gear -- some of it built in shop class -- and he took the boys team to place high in the junior nationals. Later went on to become the women's coach in the '64 Olympics, manager in the '68 games. (My event was trampoline, which, with rope climb and mat tumbling, were eventually eliminated from gymnastic competition. I wasn't any good at it, but I developed a liking for the sport as a result.
I saw the first-ever double-back somersault in floor exercise at a meet, in the days when a single back with a full twist in a layout was a competition- winning trick if you hit it.

Michael Bourgon said...

A couple thoughts.
1) Younger in gymnastics, up to a point, is better. The proportions are better, there's none of that nasty "puberty" mucking up the graceful lines - and they're more flexible.

2) I was under the assumption that Nadia and the like were the reason for the age limit. That being said, the twenty-year-old gymnast at one point called home and wanted to come home (she was taken off to gymnastics at age 3, IIRC) - her parents said no.

That being said, yes, they nailed it at every point. And it says a lot about China, good and bad, that this occurs.

Dan Moran said...

Looks like child abuse to me. I'm not watchin the Olympics much anyway, because I don't care, but I wouldn't watch "women's" gymnastics anyway. Those aren't women and they had their childhoods stolen before they were old enough to know what they wanted.

AF1 said...

Their gymnasts performed better than ours in the team competition. No argument there.

But the Chinese are clearly doing something that is against the rules, so they should be penalized for it.

Ximena Cearley said...

"As happens often in gymnastics, the scoring last night was criminal in spots."

Women's gymnastics: the Nebula awards of sports.