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Friday, August 22, 2008

Hacker Provokes a New Investigation Into the Age of Chinese Gymnasts

posted by on August 22 at 10:55 AM

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.

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either way it doesn't matter what they found on the internet. the chinese govt can falsify passports and birth certificates in two hours and the i.o.c. won't accept anything but "official" govt documentation.

it would be sort of nice is something really embarrassing happened to china during the games though

Posted by nihao | August 22, 2008 11:01 AM

Beth Tweddle has the best and most British name I have ever heard. She sounds like she belongs in a Roald Dahl book.

Posted by MK | August 22, 2008 11:09 AM


If they are found to be underage, would that disqualify them from the team gold medal they have? How would that work?

Posted by Original Monique | August 22, 2008 11:20 AM

Thank god for the Internet and it's wonderful tubes!

As to the age thing, yes that would result in them being stripped of their medals and the next finishers being recorded as having won.

Posted by Will in Seattle | August 22, 2008 11:23 AM

On the one hand it sucks, because those girls worked really hard and gave amazing performances. On the other hand, swimmers have to pee into a cup as soon as they finish a race. The take-home lesson is, if you don't follow the rules, you should expect to be disqualified.

Posted by Greg | August 22, 2008 11:32 AM

The Chinese government has the PR problem where they, like, lie all the time. It's a cultural defect. They lie about melamine, gymnast ages, lead content, phthalate content. They have to hire Westerners to do building site inspections because Chinese ones will lie in order for everyone to "save face" about problems. China and lying are synonymous. They need to wise up and realize that they're losing more face by lying all the time than they would be if they just sucked it up and told the truth once in a while.

Posted by SM | August 22, 2008 12:19 PM

Everytime I see He Kexin's name in print, I hear "Take A Walk On The Wild Side", and the words "He was a she", in my head. Yes, I am a retard, thank you very much.

Posted by Fnarf | August 22, 2008 1:25 PM

@7: It's okay. It hardly shows.

Posted by Greg | August 22, 2008 1:29 PM

Aww Fnarf, that just makes me like you more. :D

Posted by Nay | August 22, 2008 4:16 PM

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