Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Gymnasts not underage after all?

One of the bigger controversies of the Beijing Olympics concerned the question of whether some or all of the Chinese women's team were underage due to their tiny frames and incriminating information appearing on the internet. This questioning provoked an extremely defensive response by the Chinese side, including the old chestnut of "hurting the feelings" of the gymnasts' families. However, according to an investigation, this year's team is in the clear, but China's bronze-medal winning team in Sydney is still under suspicion.

China's gold medal gymnasts are in the clear. Its team that won the bronze medal eight years ago, however, still faces questions. International gymnastics officials on Wednesday closed their 5
1/2-week investigation into the ages of the Chinese gymnasts at the Beijing Olympics, saying the documentation provided confirms they were old enough to compete. But two members of the 2000 squad — Dong Fangxiao and Yang Yun — remain under scrutiny.

This is despite an American computer expert finding documents that he claimed prove that she was in fact only 14 at the time of the competition. From The Times:
Mike Walker, a computer security expert, told The Times how he tracked down two documents that he says had been removed from a Chinese
government website. The documents, he said, stated that He’s birth date was January 1 1994 - making her 14 - and not January 1 1992, which is printed in her passport.

He turned to a Chinese search engine, Baidu. In its cache he found both documents. "The listing in there, quite clearly, is He Kexin’s birth date, January 1, 1994," Mr Walker said. That makes her 14 years and 220 days old and too young to compete. The lists were compiled by the
General Administration of Sport of China. How aggressive and sustained the IOC-ordered investigation will be remains to be seen. If it did ultimately result in the stripping of gold medals from one of China’s favourite athletes, it would be an Olympic scandal with reverberations far beyond the sport itself. In July the New York Times published references to articles in the Beijing press in which He was referred to as only 14 years old.

Presumably, He Kexin and her teammates had competed at international level before the Olympics. I wonder if there were many questions about her age then. And if there were, were requests made for corroborating proof?

He Kexin: 16 years old, fake ID

1 comment:

Lady said...

Glad to know that the Chinese gymnasts in the 2008 Olympics are not underaged... I was wondering what would happen if they were underage though? Would they be stripped of their medals?