Recently among the gymnastic message boards there has been a lot of talk about the ages of some the Chinese, notably He Kexin. (wwgym is very appealing to me)
Many people have claimed that it was well known that He was and IS still a junior, born in 1994, not 1992. This has lead to other discussions about several of the other Chinese gymnasts not being of age either. Some claiming that ALL of the current Olympic prospects are underage with exception of Cheng Fei. There have then also been a couple of claims that even Cheng just turned 17 last year! (a rumored photograph of her at her birthday, only 17 candles on the cake. If anyone can show me this picture I would love to see it!)
One of my most recent thoughts is, “How does something like this not get out?” The Chinese have media, just like we do. If suddenly Rebecca Bross was 16 it would be all over the media. But of course, our media gives us everything you could ever know about a person, and controversies are easily sought out because they make sensational stories. I am not familiar with the media system in China, but one thing I do know a little bit about is their sports philosophy. To my understanding, the Chinese find physical well-being quite important. As that combined with metal well being brings upon a balance, the Qi. Sports success brings great honor. I feel that in the US, sports success just brings about fame or money. Hence, this is why I love watching the Chinese compete; their pride and passion moves me, the way they root and congratulate one another. it is refreshing. Not to say I don’t see that from other nations, but thinking of examples I think of Ling Jie praying for Liu Xuan in the balance beam event final, Sydney 2000. Or Andreea Munteanu screaming in jumping for Catalina Ponor in the floor event final, World Championships 2003. Both Ling and Munteanu had already competed in the same event final, and rather than being upset for their loss, they thrived on their teammate’s happiness. That isn’t something I see with the US girls. I am not saying they are bad people but our systems and societies are different.
Back on topic, do I think these allegations are true? Tough to say, I do have a gut feeling Kexin is underage. Why didn’t she compete in the 2007 worlds? When I thought about the Cheng allegations I did ponder the fact that she too was absent from the prior worlds before Athens. And she did fill the hole of vault/floor for the team. Kexin does look awfully young, but I think that reasonable evidence. And she doesn’t appear Kim Gwang Suk young. Then again, there could be reasons (injuries) that neither competed the World Championships preceding the Olympics.
Now IF there are underage people competing, do I care? I am still trying to figure that out. I am opposed to the age rule in place, I think it should be 14 or 15. But I don’t like cheating. But with Cheng, I am blinded by how awesome she is, and nothing I hear can taint what I think of her. And really, same thing with Kexin. I favor the “wow” factor of gymnastcs, I love new and innovative routines. She certainly fills that. Her Yaeger combos are truely magnificent (and the nod to Li Ya, I think the half turn Yaeger should be named after her, OR call it a “Li Ya” combo). Due to my love for gymnastics and lack of evidence, I am willing to turn my back on the issue. I my opinion, I think He Kexin should be the bars champion, as her routine is the most spectacular to emerge in years.