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"Women's" Gymnastics

Posted Apr 23 2009 5:24pm
Admittedly, I'm not the biggest gymnastics fan. While I certainly respect the athleticism (strength, flexibility, coordination, etc.) required to compete at a high level in the sport (or even just to be remotely competent), I have a hard time getting into sports in which the winner is determined by a judge. Part of my disdain may also be traced back to being dragged to my sister's gymnastics practice as a kid and being forced to stay in a little room in the top corner of the gym while all parents crowded around a tiny window to watch their children... but I digress.

Regardless, I still follow at least on an ancillary level during the Olympics because I follow sports in general and apparently gymnastics is one of the more popular Olympic sports here in the US, garnering front page attention on SI.com.

So while I havent been particularly interested in the competition itself, I have been following the news stories recently (and earlier, prior to the Games) about the age, or lack thereof, of the Chinese gymnasts. Most notably a news story published in July in the New York Times indicate that more than one of the gymnasts are not the required 16 years old and that a couple may in fact be only 14. Other reports indicate that as many as four of the gymnasts are underage. Aside from numerous journalists noting that they had seen the girls listed at 14 only months ago, there is also a glaring size discrepancy between the Chinese and American women, some 3" and 30 lbs, on average.

In gymnastics, "women" have to be turning 16 in the year of the competition in order to be eligible. This rule was put in place in order to protect young girls from the mental stress of major competitions and the physical stress which is required to compete in them. Whether or not you agree with this rule is beside the point because national federations agreed on it at the beginning of the competition and it is only through an apparent cover up by Chinese officials that these girls are being allowed to compete.

The sad part in all of this is that IOC is just taking the Chinese officials' words rather than investigating the matter further. This is a shame because there is clearly and advantage to having a smaller body. Smaller hips and shorter bodies make jumps, twists, etc. much easier and this kind of cheating of akin to state sponsored doping as it is the Chinese officials who are falsifying passports to enable these sports to compete, much like the East Germans used to feed their women anabolic steroids.

I'll end with some pictures from the "Women's" Gymnastics event this year. My favorite picture is the last...








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