I love sports, and I know this is going to sound cheesy, but I really love the Olympics. Every couple of years or so I get all choked up-OK, more so at the summer games than the winter ones-when I see these athletes competing. When I was 12, my brother and I stayed up late watching the team final for women’s gymnastics, and the Incredible Vault as Performed by Keri Strug on One Leg after Having Her Other Leg Amputated. Or maybe I’m remembering that wrong, since the big moments seem to get bigger as time goes on.
So this article in the NY Times saying that there are two Chinese gymnast who are probably below the minimum age of 16 pisses me off. Passports provided to the paper show the ages of He Kexin and Jiang Yuyuan to be 16, but other records contradict that. But the thing is, even if they are underage, there’s not much that can be done because 1) it’s China and they have pretty good control over the documents and 2) it’s China and if someone pisses them off, well, they’re hosting and judging.
Bela Karolyi, who coached Retton of the United States and Nadia Comaneci of Romania to their Olympic gold-medal triumphs, said the problem of under-age gymnasts had been around for years. Age is an easy thing to alter in an authoritarian country, he said, because the government has such strict control of official paperwork.
He recalled Kim Gwang Suk, a North Korean gymnast who showed up at the 1991 world championships with two missing front teeth. Karolyi, who said he thought Kim must have been younger than 11 at the time, and others contended that those front teeth had been baby teeth and that permanent teeth had not yet replaced them. Her coaches said she had lost them years before, during an accident on the uneven bars.
I won’t get into the pressure these very young girls are under, since that’s another issue entirely and it happens to Americans as well (Dominique Moceanu, who competed in Atlanta at 14 before the age minimum was raised, recently criticized the Karolyis as being too harsh).
And I don’t consider myself a jingiostic “we’ll put a boot in your ass” American, but this really makes me want to kick some Chinese butt at the games. The team final is Aug. 13, and I’ll be watching intently, since it seems like all we can really do is beat the Chinese, underage or not. The U.S. and China are expected to battle it out for the gold, and I hope the gang, including all-around contender Shawn Johnson (above), beat ’em at home. That would be sweet.
I’m really wishing China had never even been awarded the games. They have a ton of human rights problems, plus freedom of the press problems, plus a bad environment, plus other crap that is just making me wonder what IOC was thinking. A boycott wouldn’t do much good and would just hurt the athletes, but I hope everyone makes it out OK and nothing goes wrong, win or lose.
NBCOlympics.com Preliminary Schedule of Events (You can get specific schedules if you put in your zip code and some other stuff)
I’ll try to blog more about the Olympics, since like I said, they get me way too pumped up. There’s always an unexpected story, and I usually end up choking up/crying at some point. How do you guys feel about the Olympics, notably the 2008 Beijing Games?