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ESPN: Earlier state media report listed gymnast He's age as 13


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Earlier state media report listed gymnast He's age as 13

Updated: August 14, 2008, 10:02 AM ET

BEIJING -- Just nine months before the Beijing Olympics, the Chinese government's news agency, Xinhua, reported that gymnast He Kexin was 13, which would have made her ineligible to be on the team that won a gold medal this week.

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In its report Nov. 3, Xinhua identified He as one of "10 big new stars" who made a splash at China's Cities Games. It gave her age as 13 and reported that she beat Yang Yilin on the uneven bars at those games. In the final, "this little girl" pulled off a difficult release move on the bars known as the Li Na, named for another Chinese gymnast, Xinhua said in the report, which appeared on one of its Web sites, www.hb.xinhuanet.com

The Associated Press found the Xinhua report on the site Thursday morning and saved a copy of the page. Later that afternoon, the Web site was still working but the page was no longer accessible. Sports editors at the state-run news agency would not comment for publication.

If the age reported by Xinhua was correct, that would have meant He was too young to be on the Chinese team that beat the United States on Wednesday and clinched China's first women's team Olympic gold in gymnastics. She is also a favorite for gold in Monday's uneven bars final.

Yang was also on Wednesday's winning team. Questions have also been raised about her age and that of a third team member, Jiang Yuyuan.

Gymnasts have to be 16 during the Olympic year to be eligible for the Games. He's birthday is listed as Jan. 1, 1992.

Chinese authorities insist that all three are old enough to compete. He herself told reporters after Wednesday's final that "my real age is 16. I don't pay any attention to what everyone says."

Zhang Hongliang, an official with China's gymnastics delegation at the Games, said Thursday the differing ages which have appeared in Chinese media reports had not been checked in advance with the gymnastics federation.

"It's definitely a mistake," Zhang said of the Xinhua report, speaking in a telephone interview. "Never has any media outlet called me to check the athletes' ages."

Asked whether the federation had changed their ages to make them eligible, Zhang said: "We are a sports department. How would we have the ability to do that?"

"We already explained this very clearly. There's no need to discuss this thing again."

The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) has said repeatedly that a passport is the "accepted proof of a gymnast's eligibility," and that He and China's other gymnasts have presented ones that show they are age eligible. The IOC also checked the girls' passports and deemed them valid.

A May 23 story in the China Daily newspaper, the official English-language paper of the Chinese government, said He was 14. The story was later corrected to list her as 16.

"This is not a USAG issue," said Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics. "The FIG and the IOC are the proper bodies to handle this."

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There's no doubt that multiple members of the team were not legal competitors.

But for years different nations have been breaking the rules and no-one really cares.

It's a little like baseball and steroids. The people running the sport only are interested in entertaining performances and not the damage being done to the athletes.

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Anyone with half a brain who watched those girls standing next to the Americans could tell they were nowhere NEAR the same age.

Those Chinese girls were just tiny and nowhere near as physically developed.

That country needs freedom of press to start exposing this kind of crap. NO WAY anyone could have gotten away with that here in America.

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The only thing I could think of was her being lighter, so it might be easier for her to stick her landings. :whoknows:

They say that not only do they flip and land easier, but their youth makes them more fearless because they don't quite grasp the big stage.

By the way, I never though I'd see so much talk about 13 year old gymnasts without Dateline busting through the door.

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Color me surprised. You can tell just by comparing the other teams.

Younger girls are most likely smaller, lighter and more flexible. Nevermind that those pesky boobs and butt get in the way...........

As someone that took ballet, which is similar in alot of ways, it's easier to rotate and move your body and build up higher levels of strength to body weight ratio when you are younger.

But at the same time, you do give up some of the experience that you would gain in the 2-3 years before qualifying legally for the Olympics.

The Chinese are just so concerned with how they look to the rest of the world, that they'll do whatever they have to do to bring home the gold.

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Does it help to be younger? I dont see their advantage.

Well, being younger they tend to be more flexible and nimble. Also, they don't have breasts and other changes that happen to a woman's body that can affect balance.

Have the girls on the Chinese gymnastics team ever participated in other competitions? If so, what age did they purport to be in those competitions? That is, have they been lying consistently, or did they just make the change for the Olympics?

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Was the he/she switch a joke about the men/women they had competing in swimming a few years ago? Or just a typo....over and over again?

I swear I saw a penis buldge with on one of the female synchro divers the other day. If you did through the Olympc thread you will see I wasn't the only person that noticed it.

I would say it is possible.

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I might be wrong, but don't they start training for the Olympics at a younger age?

Yeah, I was just thinking for us, that it would be beneficial. But I would also think that being 9 or 10 would make it very nerve-racking to already be at that level competing and also to be surrounded with other girls that are at least 16. I would think it would feel weird.

I believe they are hand selected by the state when they are 3 years old or so and begin training in gymnastics.

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