Sports Hacker Provokes a New Investigation Into the Age of Chinese Gymnasts
posted by August 22 at 10:55 AMon
This guy (Stryde, aka Mike Walker) dug through some Google and Baidu (a Chinese search engine) caches to figure out the actual ages of the Chinese gymnasts. [His explanation, by the way, is slightly off—it’s OK to be 15 at the Olympics as long as you will turn 16 in 2008. But that’s not the scenario China has been asserting for He Kexin.] He concluded that He Kexin, the uneven bars gold medalist, is currently 14. After The Times (of London) reported it—the story had already made Slashdot; and the original, un-cached documents may have been first accessed by the New York Times—the IOC launched an investigation.
The Brits are psyched because disqualifications of either He Kexin or Yang Yilin on the uneven bars would push Beth Tweddle into medaling position.
It’s been pretty clear for a while that some of the Chinese gymnasts are underage, so there’s no guarantee that FIG and the IOC will take this evidence seriously.
I have mixed feelings about the issue. On the one hand, I don’t think there should be an age minimum—it’s a public relations thing, mainly, because junior-level gymnasts are still doing all these incredibly dangerous skills and pushing their bodies just as hard. I also think it’s unfair to the Chinese gymnasts, because they had no real choice about whether to compete. On the other hand, it obviously puts the United States and other countries at a disadvantage, not being able to use their entire pool of talent, including 14-year-old juniors. (Nastia Liukin was 14 during the Athens Olympics, for example; her junior scores—determined by the same code of points—would have qualified her to compete were it not for her age.)
The gymnasts whose ages are in dispute are He Kexin, Jiang Yuyuan, Li Shanshan, Deng Linlin, and Yang Yilin.