Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Hu Jintao's Juvenile Jymnasts

With the astonishingly intricate opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics behind us – and nothing else nearly as interesting to show on TV – recent Olympic coverage has focused on allegations of cheating and chicanery.

Is the French cyclist blood doping?

Is the Argentine rowing team on ‘roids?

Did the Greek archer just snort some Ritalin?

And of course, is the Chinese Women’s Gymnastics Team actually of legal age?

Read about it here. Or here. It’s all over the news. The controversy erupted as soon as the team members were announced a few weeks ago. It seems that a few of the girls might be younger than 16 – the minimum age to compete - and even as young as 14. Of course, the Chinese government was able to quickly produce passports that clearly and unambiguously demonstrate their age to be 16.

The passports might as well say they’re 45. And Norwegian.

But now that we’ve all had a chance to see these girls run, jump, flip, and play with dolls, we’re free to make up our own minds.

Um, yeah. She looks 16. And I just saw Elvis riding a unicorn.

I’m not sure why there was all this hubbub as to whether Linlin Deng and He Kexin were either 14 or 16 years old. They’re clearly of neither age. It seems like everyone’s missing the point entirely.

These girls are 3, maybe 4 years old.

Don’t get me wrong. They’re amazing athletes, and superior gymnasts. Their rubbery bones, small stature, and still-appreciable fontanels add up to an extremely lightweight package – easily flung about on the uneven bars or the floor routine.

I can see how this makes for an unfair advantage. How can even our smallest gymnast – Shawn Johnson, at 4 feet 9 inches, and 90 pounds – compete with 4 year old Chinese gymnasts who are maybe half her size?

"16" year old Jiang Yuyuan. She's about 3 feet tall and can easily ride a Shetland pony.

It’s ridiculous. And although more years on Earth mean more years to train for the Olympics, the tiny size of the Chinese gymnasts far outweighs any benefit gained from training for 11 or 12 more years - when they’ll actually be 16, and able to legally compete in the 2020 Fairbanks, Alaska Olympics.

As Bela Karolyi shouted to reporters yesterday, “You can’t teach smallness!!”

And he’s right. You can’t.

But you can teach a 4 year old to do some amazing vaults and somersaults.

2008 Chinese Men's Gymnastics Team

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That's girl's sixteen? You're saying she's legal in some states?

Imagine hitting on her. I bet that would raise a few eyebrows.