The events are over, the scores tallied and the medals awarded, but the dispute over the real age of the Chinese female gymnasts is far from settled. In addition to multiple individual medals, the Chinese women won team gold for the first time ever behind a group of talented, but suspiciously young, gymnasts.
The Chinese government says these young women are 16 — the minimum age required for competition — but proving otherwise would mean China’s disqualification and a gold medal for Team USA. So with Michael Phelps out of the pool, this is what we’re focusing on now.
To shut us up, the International Olympic Committee and International Gymnastics Federation are conducting an investigation into the matter, reexamining the same information China originally provided. So far, the IOC has stated that it is still convinced that the gymnasts are 16 because their government-issued passports and identification cards say so.
How do these global organizations not know about fake IDs? Yeah, the gymnasts are 16, and every college freshman in Indiana is a 21 year old from Louisiana. Apparently it takes the same amount of effort and resources to fool the IOC as it does for an 18 year old to buy a case of Keystone.
The IOC is investigating this as thoroughly as a parent checking the closet for monsters. “Yep. Everything’s fine,” they’ll say. “Now no more talking.”
But this once-over isn’t even necessary. The gymnasts look as if they’re several birthdays away from sweet 16, and supporting evidence seems to be very prevalent. If anything, we need an investigation to prove these girls are over 10.
Xinhua, a Chinese news agency, released a story last year stating that He Kexin was 13 at the time, making her 14 during the Beijing Games. That article was recently erased, and the Chinese government probably did the same to whoever posted it.
A few weeks ago, the Associated Press reported age discrepancies posted on the Web site of the China State General Administration of Sport. Gymnasts who were repeatedly listed as being born in 1994 were suddenly 1992 babies beginning last year. One day they’re 14, and then they’re 16 literally the next day. Today’s kids grow up so fast.
We have evidence from Chinese agencies proving these gymnasts are 14, yet by the time we get a definitive resolution, the girls really will be 16. At that point it won’t matter anymore. But then again, does it really matter now?
It may provide a slight advantage, but being in eighth grade is not a prerequisite for winning Olympic medals in gymnastics. Just ask Oksana Chusovitina (via translator). She’s the 33-year-old German who won the silver medal, out-vaulting competitors nearly two decades younger than her.
The U.S. women didn’t lose the team gold because of age, but that’s not why we want to prove China’s gymnasts are ineligible. While there have been numerous American grumblings about biased scoring in multiple sports, illogical seeding in women’s beach volleyball and seemingly fabricated tiebreaker rules, this age controversy may be the only one we can prove.
Taking away China’s first women’s team gold medal would certainly make up for any wrongdoings we suspect the country committed during the past two weeks. So we’re hoping these allegations stick like a Nastia Liukin dismount.
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