Controversy Amongst Doubt
SI.com’s Selena Roberts just took the controversy one step forward. She “went there.” Oh, no she didn’t. Yes, yes, she did.
The Chinese gymnasts could have picked out their leotards from Thumbelina’s closet as they performed gymnastics in miniature on Wednesday.
Translation: Here in America, where everyone is mostly overweight, it shocked me to see such petite girls at such a young age. And here I thought that the Chinese liked McDonalds.
Wearing blue eye shadow with their hair pulled back, He Kexin, Jiang Yuyuan and Yang Yilin looked like girls who had just rummaged through their mothers’ makeup.
It’s obvious that girls, no matter the age, will pound on the makeup for a special event. Pulling out these three and ignoring the other girls in the competition is a reach.
This was a ladies’ final, though somehow it was hard to see how they qualified as women.
There are millions of people watching gymnastics on their television screens and it’s a sure bet that most are wondering how any of the competitors qualify as women.
Amid pre-Olympic hand-wringing over why the birthdates of He, Yang and Jiang didn’t jibe with other registration materials that showed they might be as young as 14, China swore on its stars’ passport stamps that the tots are the legal tumbling age of 16.
Investigative reporting at its finest. Present the facts. Present the counter-argument. Finally, hook the readers in with your preconceived judgments.
But while the tiny trio helped their nation whisk the gold medal away from a suddenly clumsy U.S. group in the team competition,
How can one whisk away a gold medal if the competition is performing clumsily? Unless…
it was impossible to deny the visual evidence of something unjust in China.
Just take a peek at the big lugs who stood next to the Chinese team.
See? Overweight Americans. Told you so.
The U.S. squad is filled with women who are short to be sure, but with a curve to their bodies, muscle on their bones and driver’s licenses in their wallets.
The IOC now requires proof of driving to perform in gymnastics? Look, I get it. The U.S. women have curves. The Chinese do not. But, you have to ask yourself, since when do curves define age? Walk around your local McDonalds and you are sure to find curvy 12-year olds and straight-like-an-ironing-board 20-year olds.
did little He look sweet 16 in the eyes of other competitors? “No, but then I don’t look 20,” said Alicia Sacramone
The voice of reason? Perhaps, the U.S. team’s “vocal leader” could enlighten the rest…
While Sacramone revealed grace, U.S. coach Martha Karolyi revealed her doubts, feeding the age conspiracy issue by saying, “I have no clue [if they are 16]. I cannot make that call. … It could be true. One little girl has a missing tooth.”
“I’d say, my dear Watson, that this caper is solved.”
A missing tooth. Alicia Sacramone would not do well in crime-solving school.
This dental obsession must be a Karolyi family trait. Her husband, Bela, made a similar assessment last week before the competition began, bellowing, “Look in their mouths. It’s like itty bitty teeth.”
I hear that CBS is now offering the open CSI: position to Bela Karolyi.
The problem with this assessment is that it just does not hold much water. Adult teeth start coming in at the age of six. By the age of thirteen, twenty-eight of the thirty-two adult teeth should be visible. The last four, wisdom teeth, usually do not come in until sometime between the ages of seventeen and twenty-one years of age.
In other words, if the Chinese gymnasts have “itty bitty” teeth, then so do the rest of the gymnasts in the other countries.
The investigation into the mouths of babes has been far from intensive.
Karolyi might disagree.
Basically the international gymnastics federation agrees with the birth date evidence provided by Chinese officials. And that is that.
Chinese officials submitted passports that prove the age of their gymnasts. The IGF uses passports to determine the age of their competitors. Roberts prefers they be judged by appearance.
Let’s ask the Men’s Spanish Basketball team what they think.
This brushfire is not politics, though the IOC has acted as if it is.
No. Playing politics would be adhearing to the plentiful number of American complaints on this controversy and investigating. The IOC has the proof they need. It’s called a passport/visa.
The age suspicion is a field of play issue. Any violation of the age requirements is an act of cheating, an issue that the IOC has always cared deeply about, particularly when it comes to doping.
You might want to forward this to the IOC. Seems they forgot.
“[Age] is a bigger problem than doping,” Bela Karolyi said. “I think it’s more cheating than doping. To look in the eye of everybody and to show up with a team underage? My god, it’s not good.”
Age is a problem, but lets be real, it’s not a bigger problem. Bela is honestly looking into the eyes of the American public and saying that age cheating is a bigger problem than doping?
Also an interesting perspective on this entire controversy. What do you think the Chinese population thinks of Bela’s comments?
No amount of Bela-aching is likely to alter the outcome.
Or their teeth. Seriously. You think being a dentist in China is hitting an upward trend?
The last time IOC president Jacques Rogge meddled with the medals was at the Salt Lake City Winter Games in 2002. In a rush to soothe North American audiences who, along with NBC commentators, went crackers when the beautiful Canadians lost the pairs skating gold to the Russians amid the French judge scandal, Rogge allowed a duplicate gold, bending to public rage.
Those North Americans at it again. Maybe Rogge is just tired of bending for one country.
Never mind that the Canadians performed an inferior program to the Russians.
I think I found Roberts’ calling. She should be a judge at the Olympic games. She’s made how many comments about visuals in this article now?
So do not expect a peep out of the IOC this time, no matter how angered American fans might be. If Rogge & Co. were ever going to stick their noses in this delicate case, it should have been last month when The New York Times raised the contradictory age calculations for the Chinese gymnasts.
Yes, maybe that would have been a good time. Or, maybe the IOC already had the proof they needed. Did I say that already?
“It’s not an even playing field,” Martha Karolyi said. She understands that China was the better team in the finals.
Ok, now I think Roberts is leading me on here. No way she wrote these sentences side-by-side without at least cracking a smile.
She knows the U.S. sabotaged itself with missteps. But she is right. Age has a lot to do with what’s level in gymnastic competitions.
If we are going to take it that level, then why are twenty-year old women allowed to compete against sixteen-year olds? That’s a four year difference. What’s so level about that?
There is a mental advantage for youngsters who are clueless about pressure, unaware of what wobbles the burden to win can create.
SI Senior writer E.M. Swift disagrees.
SI.com: Why is there an age limit in gymnastics?
Swift: It was instituted primarily for the mental health of the athletes. Being 14 and having those Olympic or world championship expectations put on you is unreasonable and very difficult.
This seems fair and reasonable. You never hear marriage counselors suggest that married couples get a divorce before their kid turns sixteen so to “avoid any mental burden that may be difficult and unreasonable to handle.”
A fourteen-year old in the grandest stage of sports, in front of their home crown, would understand the importance of their performance. Two years does not save you from those expectations.
Maybe that was Sacramone’s problem.
Maybe. Or, maybe it was lack of focus. Maybe two unplanned falls. Maybe chance.
She is a veteran at 20 — ready for bingo in gymnastic years — and old enough to know what one flawed moment can mean in a team competition.
It is not rocket science. Everyone is at the Olympics to compete.
Halfway through the team finals, she came unglued. “My nerves got the better of me,” she said.
I can buy that. But, all people are different. Shannon Miller and Dominque Dawes were unusually old for competition in 1996 and they did not fold under the pressure of performing in front of their own crowd. Heralded Olympic gymnast Svetlana Boginskaya did not struggle when she won 5 gold medals at the age of 20.
The young seem immune to meltdowns.
There is no clear way to judge this statement accurately. I am not sure on what basis Roberts is claiming this to be true, either.
With Kool-Aid running through their veins, China’s gymnasts were unflappable — especially He in the uneven bars.
Oh, Roberts, you were boring me there for a few paragraphs. How could I forget the unnerving effects of sugar-laced Kool-Aid.
What an edge she had at 4-foot-8 and 73 pounds, flitting through the uneven bars with jaw-dropping release moves, light as a dragonfly. The judges adored He, whatever her age.
This is the way it should be. Judges should not judge based on physical appearance. Their job is to judge on performance.
Gymnastics officials have dealt with it — approving the age of China’s gymnasts based on China-issued papers. The IOC blindly bought into this resolution, unconditionally devoted to China, seeing no need to doubt its flying Thumbelinas.
This sums it up for Roberts. The IOC is in bed with China, unconditionally approving these ridiculous papers they call passports as enough evidence to prove age.
Taking a serious approach to all this, I agree that the Chinese women looked under age, but it surely is not my position to judge them based on appearance. Roberts takes a bit too far. She has every right to believe that the women are not of age, but the subtle jabs are not necessary. It all really sounds like a bitter sore loser than a reporter.