August 14, 2008

Kiddie Gymnasts

Tuesday night Jeff and I were watching the Olympics (what else is there on summer TV?) and it was a pretty exciting night. Of course there was all of the Michael Phelps stuff, but we also had the women's team gymnastics compeition.

As we were watching, we recognized most of the US faces. Though the oldest girl was only about 20, we had seen most of them before. Then they show the girls from China, and we kept making cracks about how tiny they were and how they looked to be about 8-years-old. Then the announcer made a remark about the "China age controversy"...and both Jeff and I turned to each other with puzzled looks on our faces. Controversy is always exciting, but neither of us had heard a peep about it. So it was Google time!

Turns out we arent the only ones to think the girls from China looked a bit young. (Yes, all of the gymnasts look young, and most of them are.) Combined with their tiny statures and low weights, its hard to believe that these girls are 16 ... but often if you look at their faces you can tell they are. Not the girls from China. They had baby faces, young eyes, little giggles ... something just said that there is no way these girls could be driving around the US (with 16 as our drivers license age). And thats exactly what others were thinking too - these girls are not 16, thus, the "age controversy".

Past Olympic gymnasts have been under the age of 16 - the rule was introduced in 1997 due to "concerns about the wellbeing of young gymnasts whose bodies are under huge stress when they reach the elite level". Yet some reports have indicated that some of these girls are as young as 14. IOC refuses to doubt the age of these gymnasts , accepting China-issued passports as proof these girls met the eligibility requirements. Yet here is an interesting tidbit from the Washington Post: "The sport's latest controversy centers on Chinese gymnasts He Kexin, Jiang Yuyuan and Yang Yilin. According to their official biographies, He is 16 and weighs 73 pounds; Jiang is 16 and weighs 71 pounds; and Yang is 15 (with a birthday Aug. 26) and 77 pounds. All but one of China's six gymnasts are listed as 15 or 16; all but one weigh less than 80 pounds."

Pretty interesting, huh?

1 comment:

Sarah Jo said...

I've heard that, too! On NPR today they were talking to some expert who was saying that it's actually more healthy for elite gymnasts to be young because they're lighter, which makes them less prone to impact injuries. And because they have that "youth invincibility factor" they're more likely to take risks, which results in more spectacular routines.