With the Chinese recently beating the United States for gold in women’s gymnastics, there have been some claims that China has cheated, using girls under the age of 16, which would be illegal in the Olympics. Sports Illustrated reported here on the issue.
Specifically there are some claims that He Kexin of the Chinese team is 14. That, apparently, is the age given in an article by the China Daily newspaper earlier in the year. If true, the Chinese have cheated and should be disqualified, some say.
My take? Well, I don’t condone cheating and I’d be really upset if you had to be under 16 to compete and an 18 year old was competing (think little league world series). It’s not political. I don’t think a 14 year old poses much of a threat to a 16 year old and the fact that some 16 year and older kids got beat by at least one 13 or 14 year old kid screams “sore loser.” I think the United States team got beat, at least in this competition, by better gymnasts, at least in this event, who had no physical competitive advantage. (That still doesn’t justify cheating, though). And if you think being just a little bit shorter than already petite girls is a competitive advantage, then you haven’t seen some of those girls miss the bars and fall on the uneven bars event because they couldn’t quite reach. The United States lost and can blame themselves – they had plenty of opportunity and, though valiantly they tried, they were unable to pull out the win.
Update 8/22/08 8:00am CST. There has been great discussion about all of the cheating allegations and the competitive advantage issue in the comments. Please read them and the Further Review article here, the Hall of Shame or the IOC investigating links to see where I stand on the issue.
This original post was intended to be an opinion that the girls lost because they didn’t perform well and not because the Chinese beat them because they had a competitive advantage. It was never meant to be an expose on or proving the cheating allegations nor a scientific/medical discussion on the competitve advantage enjoyed by underage gymnasts. So before commenting to this post, please read the comments and links above for a fuller and more accurate picture of where I stand. In short, I think there should be an investigation and I think underage gymnasts do generally have a competitve advantage over the older ones, and if the Chinese have cheated, it’s not fair to call the girls “sore losers”. Thanks for reading.