Tag Archives: Kim Gwang Suk

Age Falsification Debate Gets Crazier!

The New York Times released this article. This is the most information received thus far about the Chinese Age Debate. Very interesting stuff, check it out….

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/27/sp…in&oref=slogin

Issues of Age Seem to Follow Chinese Gymnasts

By JERÉ LONGMAN and JULIET MACUR
Published: July 27, 2008
China named its Olympic women’s gymnastics team on Friday, and the inclusion of at least two athletes has further raised questions, widespread in the sport, about whether the host nation for the Beijing Games is using under-age performers.

Chinese officials responded immediately, providing The New York Times with copies of passports indicating that both athletes in question — He Kexin, a gold-medal favorite in the uneven parallel bars, and Jiang Yuyuan — are 16, the minimum age for Olympic eligibility.

Officials with the International Gymnastics Federation said that questions about He’s age had been raised by Chinese news media reports, USA Gymnastics and fans of the sport, but that Chinese authorities presented passport information to show that He is 16.

Online records listing Chinese gymnasts and their ages that were posted on official Web sites in China, along with ages given in the official Chinese news media, however, seem to contradict the passport information, indicating that He and Jiang may be as young as 14 — two years below the Olympic limit.

Mary Lou Retton, the Olympic all-around gymnastics champion at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, recently watched a competition video of He and other Chinese gymnasts on the uneven bars.

“The girls are so little, so young,” Retton said. Speaking of He, Retton rolled her eyes and laughed, saying, “They said she was 16, but I don’t know.”

An advantage for younger gymnasts is that they are lighter and, often, more fearless when they perform difficult maneuvers, said Nellie Kim, a five-time Olympic gold medalist for the former Soviet Union who is now the president of the women’s technical committee for the Swiss-based International Gymnastics Federation.

“It’s easier to do tricks,” Kim said. “And psychologically, I think they worry less.”

The women’s gymnastics competition at the Beijing Games, which begin Aug. 8, is expected to be a dramatic battle for the team gold medal between the United States and China. At the 2007 world championships, the Americans prevailed by 95-hundredths of a point.

On the uneven bars, He and Nastia Liukin of the United States are expected to challenge for an individual gold medal.

In Chinese newspaper profiles this year, He was listed as 14, too young for the Beijing Games.

The Times found two online records of official registration lists of Chinese gymnasts that list He’s birthday as Jan. 1, 1994, which would make her 14. A 2007 national registry of Chinese gymnasts — now blocked in China but viewable through Google cache — shows He’s age as “1994.1.1.”

Another registration list that is unblocked, dated Jan. 27, 2006, and regarding an “intercity” competition in Chengdu, China, also lists He’s birthday as Jan. 1, 1994. That date differs by two years from the birth date of Jan. 1, 1992, listed on He’s passport, which was issued Feb. 14, 2008.

There has been considerable talk about the ages of Chinese gymnasts on Web sites devoted to the sport. And there has been frequent editing of He’s Wikipedia entry, although it could not be determined by whom. One paragraph that discusses the controversy of her age kept disappearing and reappearing on He’s entry. As of Friday, a different version of the paragraph had been restored to the page.

The other gymnast, Jiang, is listed on her passport — issued March 2, 2006 — as having been born on Nov. 1, 1991, which would make her 17 in November and thus eligible to compete at the Beijing Games.

A different birth date, indicating Jiang is not yet 15, appears on a list of junior competitors from the Zhejiang Province sports administration. The list of athletes includes national identification card numbers into which birth dates are embedded. Jiang’s national card number as it appears on this list shows her birth date as Oct. 1, 1993, which indicates that she will turn 15 in the fall, and would thus be ineligible to compete in the Beijing Games.

Zhang Hongliang, an official with the Chinese gymnastics federation, said Friday that perhaps Chinese reporters and provincial sports authorities made mistakes in listing He’s and Jiang’s birth dates differently from the dates given on their passports.

“The two athletes have attended international sports competitions before, and I’m sure the information is correct,” Zhang said of the athletes’ passports.

The International Gymnastics Federation said it had contacted Chinese officials in May about the gymnasts’ ages after receiving inquiries from fans and reading newspaper accounts, including one in The China Daily, the country’s official English-language paper, stating that He was 14.

“We heard these rumors, and we immediately wrote to the Chinese gymnastics federation” about He, said André Gueisbuhler, the secretary general of the international federation. “They immediately sent a copy of the passport, showing the age, and everything is O.K. That’s all we can check.”

If someone provided proof that any gymnast was under age, or filed a formal complaint, Gueisbuhler said, he would be “quite happy to check and ask again.”

“As long as we have no official complaint, there is no reason to act, if we get a passport that obviously is in order,” he said.

Steve Penny, the president of USA Gymnastics, said he had asked Kim of the international federation about He’s age after receiving e-mail messages referring to newspaper accounts and comments made on blogs and in Internet chat rooms that said she was 14. But Penny said he was not really concerned.

“If they have valid passports, bring ’em on,” Penny said. “If they say they’re good, we’re going to beat them.

“You can’t worry about it. You do your job, and you expect other people are doing theirs and you expect it’s a fair field of play.”

Privately, some gymnastics officials said that even if other countries had real concerns about the Chinese, they might be reluctant to make accusations for fear of reprisals by judges at the Beijing Games.

If it is true that under-age gymnasts are competing, Kim of the international federation said: “It’s a bad thing. It should not be acceptable.”

Yang Yun of China won individual and team bronze medals at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and later said in an interview on state-run television that she had been 14 at the time of those Games. A Hunan Province sports administration report also said later that she had been 14 when she competed in Sydney.

Bela Karolyi, who coached Retton of the United States and Nadia Comaneci of Romania to their Olympic gold-medal triumphs, said the problem of under-age gymnasts had been around for years. Age is an easy thing to alter in an authoritarian country, he said, because the government has such strict control of official paperwork.

He recalled Kim Gwang Suk, a North Korean gymnast who showed up at the 1991 world championships with two missing front teeth. Karolyi, who said he thought Kim must have been younger than 11 at the time, and others contended those front teeth had been baby teeth and that permanent teeth had not yet replaced them. Her coaches said she had lost them years before, during a small accident in the gym.

At the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona, Kim was 4 feet 4 inches, about 65 pounds and claimed to be 17. At one point, the North Korean Gymnastics Federation listed her at 15 for three straight years; the federation was later barred from the 1993 world championships for falsifying ages.

“Oh, come on, she was just in diapers and everyone could see that, just like some of the Chinese girls are now,” Karolyi said. “If you look close, you can see they still have their baby teeth. Little tiny teeth!”

But it is not likely that anyone could prove that the Chinese gymnasts are under age, Karolyi said.

“It’s literally impossible,” he said. “The paperwork is changed just too good. In a country like that, they’re experts at it. Nothing new.”

So what do you guys think?  Pretty interesting huh?  I keep saying this, but I must again: IF IT IS DETERMINED DURING THE OLYMPICS THAT THERE ARE UNDERAGE GYMNASTS AND MEDALS GET STRIPPED I MAY LOSE ALL MY FAITH IN HUMANITY.

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Reflections, Thoughts, and Hopes of the Olympics

The history of my love for gymnastics plays like this:

I always loved watching gymnastics.  My earliest memories were the 1992 games in Barcelona.  Here, I remember rooting for Shannon Miller.  I was 10 years old, and even then I can remember that I had heard of Kim Zmeskal.   I was shocked at all I remember.  I remembered that Shannon scored a 9.912 in beam finals and got second.  I could remember the routine of Kim Gwang-Suk, and I remember the falls of Yang Bo and Lavinia Milosovici on beam, Milo and Lu Li‘s perfect ten’s, etc.

In Atlanta 1996, I remember watching it all and being so excited.  In 2004 I was flipping through the channels and landed on the qualifications.  I again got excited and made sure I watched Team Finals, AA, and EF.  It took me two days to realize why I had no memory at all of the Sydney Games; I was traveling across the country with Drum Corps International, another subjectively scored event.

This is where my obsession was born.  I wanted to know what happened in 2000, I wanted to see World Championships.  I consulted Ebay, where anything you want in the world you can buy.  I began buying burned DVD broadcasts and before long made an online friend who became my ‘gymnastics dealer.’  (Although many of my friends call her my crack dealer due to my obsession).  The more I came in possession of, the more I learned.  I own somewhere around 100 individual discs, and have watched them countless times.  Mostly while eating, and late at night to get my mind of school and analyze something that wasn’t ‘work’.  I watched them over and over to learn about scoring, why certain gymnasts would get deductions though nothing appeared wrong, etc.  (Yes, I am a huge dork, I know)   And now in the age of youtube, I can see whatever I need to see that I don’t have.

So this is the first time I will watch the Olympics with complete knowledge of what to expect, who will be there, who may win.  I can’t imagine how angry I would be if this upcoming Olympics was the Sydney Games.  I would go crazy over the incredibly poor coverage shown.  I would feel cheated.  And I can’t imagine this upcoming event I have waited for four years for to contain a controversy such as the All Around Vaulting Debacle.  I realize I haven’t and can’t prepare for what is out of my hands.  Will there be scoring controversies?  That seems inevitable, as I can’t think of any World or Olympic event that doesn’t contain at least one.

And so now, here are some things in the past that I have been thinking about.

  • Mohini Bhardwaj.  Two things about her.  1.)  She is why I keep reiterating the bubble gymnasts  needed consistency throughout Nationals and Trials.  But Bhardwaj wasn’t even a factor at Nationals.  I wonder if this will happen with anyone else.  2.)  Who else thinks there may have been a scoring error with her FX during Athens qualifications?  9.525 I thought was too high.  Especially since the two performances after that garnered 9.3ishes.  I have conflicting pieces of what her SV was.  From 9.7 to 9.9.  And as far as I know, weren’t all three performances pretty much the same?  (Although sometimes I do not catch flubbed or short dance moves/combos.)  Any thoughts on this?  
  • Courtney McCool.  1.)   Did anyone else think a 9.112 in qualifying was too low on beam?  Yes she bent the hips and broke form on the switch leap- Onodi- sheep jump combo.  But like, that was it.  Anna Pavlova made a break on her Kotchetcova-BHS-layout combo in EF.  Though the  break was not a bend the waist type, she did have the break in her connection, and got a 9.587 and I believe a 10 start value.  2.)  I think she should have been in beam finals over Bhardwaj. 
  • Vanessa Atler.  Would have put her on the 2000 team.  I know she was a headcase and had a major meltdown at trials, but I really think she would have brought in some big scores on vault and floor.  I wonder if it would be different if she were in the now.  This quad.  She is in some ways, the Alicia Sacramone of this quad.  She wouldn’t have had to deal with bars.  And oddly enough, Sacramone used to be a headcase type, but has now transformed into one of team USA’s rocks.  And one thing I would have to say about Atler is on floor when she did dance combos and leaps, her feet STOPPED.  She did not have to take a step or another fluffy jump out of it.  She had nice grace too.   
  • Svetlana Khorkina.  I hate to say it, but I think she was one of the most overscored gymnasts of all time.  And when I say this I mean floor.  Again, she looked so sloppy to me.  She got the benefit of the doubt just too many times.  Her floor score in the 2003 World’s AA (9.675) was ridiculous to me.  I often wondered  if it were more than a coincidence that one of the sponsors was the company that Khorkina modeled for.  Hmmm.  And I think she is crazy if she thought she should have beat Carly Patterson in Athens.  I never cared for Patterson’s attitude, but I always respected her gymnastics.  I did feel bad for her for the Sydney Games.
  • Give Andreea Raducan her medal back.    
  • 2000 Olympics again.  Okay, so Elena Zamolodchikova gets a 9.725 on bars during the AA, and then Elise Ray scores a 9.750 when she throws the never-competed-before layout double double?  Uhhhh, right.  And Elise Ray had some of the most beautiful style and form I have ever seen.  I am not hating on Zamo, she is one of my sentimental faves, and one of the best vaulters of all time.
  • I have never understood what was so great about Ling Jie.  Bar Finals in Sydney she misses handstands, looks sluggish, hops on the dismount.  She always had this sluggishness that I didn’t like and thought looked bad.  Something about how she did her kips bothered me too.  In EF, she hops on the dismount.  Now Yang Yun I thought should have had the silver.

These are just some random things I have always questioned.  By all means, give me insight I am lacking.  In closing, here is my wish list for Beijing…

  • NBC- Please show EVERY American competing during all events.  Do the same for China.  I want the broadcasts for Team and AA to be 2 hours + long.  Yes.  Please Al Trautwig, shut up for the most part and don’t say anything dumb.  Andrea Joyce, please refrain from asking the following questions, “Can you take us through the night?  How did you feel?”  “Did you ever expect this?”  And don’t start trying to get people to talk junk about another.  Oh, I also want some nice fluff pieces.  And show ALL EIGHT finalists during EF.
  • A Team and AA Final where the top 6 hit.  I can dream.
  • No scoring garbage please.
  • Set the equipment right.
  • Cheng Fei, please do well.  I want you to have that vault gold very much.
  • Shawn Johnson not to fall and make AA, BB, and FX finals.
  • Chellsie Memmel to make the Olympic Team and maybe even bar finals.  By the way, for the greatest written piece about Memmel’s story click here at Polish 101 who wrote a SUPERB piece on her.
  • Anna Pavlova and Elena Zamolodchikova to make the team and vault finals.
  • Daiane Dos Santos to come back to peak form and make FX finals.  I would love it if she medaled.
  • Vanessa Ferrari back in peak form.  With her double-double.
  • Yang Wei to win the AA.  ( I like him.  Sentimental fave.  Don’t keep up as much with MAG, but this year will be exciting!)
  • Dasha Joura to perform like never before.
  • Oksana Chusovitina to win a vault medal.

That’s all I can think of right now.

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Thoughts and Answers to Some of the Comments on this page

There’s been some questions and thoughts on the comments of this blog (which I love, love, love!)  and since I have nothing particular to share I thought I would elaborate and what not.

  • First off, why Jana Bieger has a limited chance on making the Olympic Team.  The wide consensus among gymnastics fans and experts is that Shawn Johnson, Nastia Liukin, and Alicia Sacramone are locks for the Olympic Team.  Since the main priority is the Team Final where 3 up 3 count, the selection will cater to those 12 routines needed.  Among the first half of the squad we have:

Vault- Sacramone, Jonhson, GAP

Bars- Liukin, GAP, GAP

Beam- Johnson, Liukin, Sacramone

Floor- Jonhson, Sacramone, GAP

For the 3 remaining spots on the team, we need to fill 2 gaps on bars, and one gap apiece on vault and floor.  So our weakest showing is coming on uneven bars, which unfortunately is not good since that is China’s strongest event and they will gain at least a point on us based off their difficulty in comparison to the US.

The best solution is to put on power event gymnast, a floor and vault worker, for one spot, and fill the two remaining gaps with two bar workers.  Samantha Peszek is the best choice for spot #4 in my opinion, because she is the 3rd best on vault and now holds the highest difficulty (along with Johnson) on floor.  As another person pointed out, Peszek has had some consistency issues, but I would say Nationals/Trials will pretty much let us know.

Bieger simply does not fill any of these spots.  She is a great vaulter, but not difficult enough.  Same with floor, if she had her 2006 form back I would say she has a better shot.  Her bars difficulty is not enough either.  I do think that she is a good choice as an alternate.  I would put Chellsie Memmel in the same boat if it weren’t for the fact that she just showed a 6.9 and 16.0 scoring routine on bars.

With regards to Chelsea Davis, Darling Hill, and Mattie Larson, I would say the same thing.  Larson has a 6.0 on floor, Hill a 6.1 (I am basing these off the most recent Friendly Meet) and we have 6.2’s and higher from more experienced athletes.  Hill stil has only a yurchenko 1.5 which we need doubles at bare minimum.  For bars, we really need nothing less than a 6.7 and realistically 7.0+ is what we REALLY need.  None of these athletes can match this.  (Or can they?  Does anyone know?)  But there is also the experience factor, experienced  athletes that prove themselves have a bigger shot, though that does not have anywhere near as much pull in the decisions as the difficulty/consistency factor in my opnion.  Regardless of anything though, gymnasts may add more difficulty by Nationals.  High difficulty performed consistently throughout June is going to be what matters.

  • The selection procedures allow for more than just the top 12 from Nationals to advance to trials.  Sacarmone will have no problem proceeding to trials.  Remember in 2004, Chellsie Memmel and Hollie Vise only did two events in Trials, and neither competed at Nationals and petitioned their way in.
  • In regards to the Nastia winning the AA.  So many thoughts.  But here is where I am coming from.  I like gymnastics that are “wow” skills.  I like huge tricks performed cleanly.  Whereas Nastia’s bar routine is loaded, even her beam routine I think isn’t so much.  She has no “F” or “G” skill anywhere in her routines.  She mostly loads with “D”‘s.  “D”s are the very middle skill.  Not one of the easiest, not one of the hardest.  But good respectable skills.  (and of course, the triple off beam will add in an “F”)  This is why I like He Kexin, she does amazing releases that nearly no one does.  But she does do some pirouettes.  (Li Ya had an amazing combination of both)  Mo Huilan and Kim Gwang-Suk type routines were what really would thrill me, stuff no one tends to do.  This is why I respect Johnson so much.  Her bar routine isn’t the best, but even there she is capable of something NO ONE else can perform consistently in their repertoire.

With regards to the twisting only elements on floor, it is not that I don’t like twisting combinations, but again, I think to be really good at an event you should show variety.  Nastia does not hold enough variety for me to think she is great at that event.

In regards to the old code, you could get away with scoring too high much easier.  Let’s first establish that regardless of the code, gymnasts with the reputation so very often get the benefit of the doubt.  This applies to a lot of gymnasts.  In the old code you could also get away with only twisting elements on floor.  I realize Nastia had won numerous competitions, but in 2005 Nationals remember her floor on one day was overscored because she was given difficulty not in her routine.  The only competitions I can think of her winning under the new code, were SCAM 08′ and Nationals 06′, which caused a lot of debate because many thought Natasha Kelley should have won.

I am not saying anyone is right or wrong, I just wanted to explain where I was coming from.  I like Nastia, I just don’t think she is the best at the All-Around.  Top Ten, but not top three.  And yes, I do agree, Nastia is better at floor than Sacramone and Cheng Fei appear to be on bars.

  • Lastly, Lilia Podkopayeva was the last triple crown winner: 1995 Worlds, 1996 European and Olympic Champion.  I did think at one time that Shawn would be that if she won in Beijing, (counting 07′ Worlds and Pan Am’s) but when I think about it the Pan Am’s can’t hold a candle to the Europeans 🙂    

I wrote this in a few sections and ran away from the computer a LOT.  So if there are mad grammatical errors or totally incomplete thoughts I apologize.  I don’t have time really to blog, but I really wanted to write a new post.

Thank you everyone for all your comments and opinions.  It’s so nice to hear it all and know it’s all out there.  I think we should make a huge petition to send to NBC that we want more gymnastics coverage, and if you broadcast Beijing even close to the way you did Sydney…a lot of angry gym fans are going to come storm NBC Studios!  🙂

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Thoughts on the age discrepancy with Chinese gymnasts

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.

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