China’s Girls

Getty Images

Getty Images

I know this is shocking, but there’s more coming out now on the cheating gold-medal winning Chinese women’s gymnastics team. Some of these competitors obviously aren’t women. They’re children.

First, the AP reports that one gymnast’s age was listed as 13 recently. Of course, China denies any wrongdoing. Pause here, insert snorting noises.

Also, SI writer E.M. Swift weighs in on the controversy. I’ve enjoyed his gymnastics coverage, and I think much of what he has to say here is spot-on.

Now do I think the rule is good? I think it is. I happen to think children should not be competing at this level. It is too much pressure on them. If there is no age limit at all, there is the “ick” or “creep” factor in gymnastics. I mean, it’s women’s gymnastics and not girls’ gymnastics that we’re covering. Sixteen is young enough.
If you are going to penalize someone for having her body develop, that does not seem right. I also think the more womanly figure in these competitions is more attractive to watch for the viewers. You see it in the floor exercise, these tiny little girls doing their dance moves, and it’s just like watching a child out there. The really beautiful gymnasts I have seen in my career — like [Russia’s] Svetlana Boginskaya, who won five Olympic medals when she was 20 — have an elegance to them that is good for the sport and good for the viewers. You don’t get that with these little children doing their tricks.

Amen to that. You watch some of the girls compete and it just seems off. It doesn’t seem right. Granted, all gymnasts seem young, but the Chinese take it to new and suspicious levels. I really wish girls had a longer window of time in which to compete, but the sad truth is they just don’t. China may think they’v’e found a way around it, but they have some majorly bad karma building that I hope bites them in their asses. As is, age verification measures are supposed to get stricter starting next year (better late than never, I guess). And the team size for international competitions will shrink from six to five, which isn’t really related to age limits, but I find it interesting.

And yes, China won the gold medal Tuesday night, and the U.S. faltered and did not. Maybe they would have lost anyway, because China was so good (and young). Would China have been that good if they were all of age? We’ll never know, I guess. I felt bad for the American team, especially Alicia Sacramone, who made two big errors. You could argue the Chinese girls “need” the gold more, because they’re pretty much forced into gymnastics at a very young age by a government bent on having Olympic glory at any cost. But whenever my mom brought up the “they needed it more” argument after I lost something I really wanted, I wanted to throw stuff at her. When the American team comes to terms with losing the gold, it will be on their own terms and schedule. I did notice that Shawn Johnson and Nastia Luikin were the most consistently posed of the team. I hope they go 1-2 tonight in the all-around, but I’m almost afraid to even type that, for fear of another bad night.

The men seem gymnasts were generally older-I think the youngest male was maybe 20 or 21, whereas the oldest woman on the U.S. team wasn’t even old enough to legally have a martini. I guess it’s something about men’s bodies that lets them compete longer? I’m not sure, honestly. But the American team had gymnasts as old as 27 or 28, whereas that’s ancient in women’s gymnastics. True, there’s a 33-year-old female gymnast, but she’s by far the exception rather than the rule. I’m 24 and I’d be ancient.

It’s a very unforgiving sport in a lot of ways, and I have no doubts the Karolyis can be very harsh to the team. But the American girls women are doing this, as far as I can tell, because they want to and can’t imagine doing anything else. Not because their country is making them.

I’d like Chris Hansen to do a special “To Catch a Predator” on this. Picture it: Beijing, 2008. Chris walks into a nondescript house to see a Chinese coach who thought he was meeting a 14-year-old girl for practice. Instead, Chris whips out a real birth certificate or some other document that proves without a doubt that one or more of the gymnasts are underage. The coach starts pleading: “She was 16, I swear! Ask the government.” Too late. China is disqualifed. Then they retaliate by invading America.

Speaking of fake stuff, I’ve got a couple fake news articles brewing in my head, and so maybe I can get those written fairly soon. I know things have been very Olympic-heavy and marriage-heavy lately. Basically, I’ve discussed cheating (albeit two different kinds) way too much latley.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “China’s Girls

  1. What irritates me most about this isn’t the gymnast girls, it is that the IOC REFUSES to even investigate or even acknowledge the issue. Way to stick your head in the sand just b/c you’re either afraid of China or don’t want to tarnish the reputation of the Olympics.

  2. lalaland13

    Yup, TheDomina, that’s pretty much it. The girls are victims of their country, whereas IOC is just willfully putting their hands over their ears and saying, “Lalalalala I can’t hear you.”

    So glad to see the Americans kick butt in the all-around last night, though. And Nastia did have an elegance that I don’t think you can have at 13 or 14.

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