Thursday, August 14, 2008

Were Chinese "women" gymnasts underage? Perish the thought

The Chinese won the gold in the women's gymnastics competition amidst charges that some of the girls competing were underage. This could just be sour grapes, of course. Yes the girls, are small--tiny in fact. Yes some of them are just now losing their baby teeth, and, okay, they have to have their diapers changed between events, but why are we worried about this anyway? Why would you want to argue that your competition has an advantage because it has less experience than you?

And has anyone heard from the Chinese girls themselves? Have they been allowed to address the charges? Surely these youngsters wouldn't mind being disturbed between bottle feedings to offer their perspective on the matter. Let them stand up for themselves--all three feet worth.

Some of this controversy could simply be due to a difference in cultures. Sixteen years old may mean one thing to Americans and another to the Chinese. For example (and the world is apparently just finding this out), in the Chinese language of ideographic symbols, the word for "sixteen" is a pacifier.

Critics have pointed to the fact that, according to other official documents, several of the girls cannot possibly be of age. But this could be explained by another fact just coming to the attention of those outside of China: that in the Chinese system of numbering, 14 is apparently followed by 16, not 15, as in the West.

So the Americans should just calm down and take their medicine--as long as it isn't steroids. That would give them an unfair advantage.


Kari said...

There was more cheating going on in the women's swimming competitions. My father, a retired swimming coach, noticed that the woman who won the breaststroke was gaining momentum by kicking in an illegal way. Most people wouldn't know this, but in the breaststroke, your kick must only have horizontal motion. My father said the underwater cam clearly showed her doing a little vertical dolphin kick at the end of her stroke. And yes, that little bit does matter when you're winning by hundredths of a second.

Hannah J said...

My mother tutors several Korean children. Apparently South Korea counts age from conception. I don't know whether this practice exists in China as well.

Anonymous said...

I think we need a second "anything goes" Olympics. It would be analogous to Intelligent Design's attempts to present itself as science.

Martin Cothran said...

I think we need another post where anonymous posters can make comments completely irrelevant to what is being discussed. It would be analogous to ... well, it's not really analogous to anything.

jest2007 said...

Passports can be easily falsified, and China has been known to play fast and loose with the truth.

"China has a rich history of age falsification in Olympics competition, especially in gymnastics. At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, three years after the minimum age was raised to 16 in gymnastics, Chinese gymnast Yang Yun competed and won a bronze medal in the uneven bars (coincidentally this event is also He's specialty). Yang's passport said she was born on December 24, 1984 and turning 16 in the year of the Games, making her eligible. She later confessed in a television interview that she was only 14 at the time of the competition and that she and her coaches had lied about her age."*

"As in the case of Yang Yun, the existing records prior to the Olympics -- local registries, athletic records and news articles -- were all correct, whereas the documentation she showed Olympic officials to confirm her eligibility proved to be false. It is no coincidence that He Kexin's passport was issued on February 14, 2008, a mere 6 months before the Olympics."*
(*David Flumenbaum, Huffington Post)