Underage Chinese Gymnasts

I have no idea whether or not these girls are truly old enough to have competed.  Rules are rules, but bitching about losing to 12-year-olds seems only slightly less embarrassing than being caught using 12-year-olds. 
In any event, having lived within Chinese culture for some time now, I am intrigued by the responses thus far.  I offer the following interpretation:

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.”

In Chinese culture, a child is not aged zero at birth – they’re one. Thus, if your birthday is January 1, 2000, on that date in 2001, you are TWO years old in China. This is not cheating, this is a problem of definition. If the rules specifically state that age shall be measured starting from zero, that’s one thing. That just isn’t how it’s done where the games are being held. Absent specificity, one might well argue that house rules apply. While this may be determinative of the matter, let’s leave it aside for a moment.

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.”

What difference does it make whether or not any media outlet called to check their ages? This appears, IME, to be a common response to being caught out at shady practice in most of Asia – sort of a ‘No one else complains’ response to being questioned. Eligibilty to compete is not determined by whether or not the press checked it out. This is not to say, however, that failure to inquire earlier does not invalidate your right to inquire after the fact. (I’m getting good at this!)

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?”

Answering a direct question with a question. Sheesh…what a giveaway. If you spend any time following Taiwanese politics, you soon learn to recognize this one. It’s doubtful the sports department could issue false passports – the proof of age required by the rules – so the question, if answered, absolves the sports department. That’s not to say they didn’t know, or that the girls are in fact old enough to compete.

“We already explained this very clearly. There’s no need to discuss this thing again.”

Stop asking me questions I don’t want to answer. You asked if they were old enough, I told you they were. You’re being rude and causing me to lose face by confronting me on this issue. If you expose me as a liar and a cheat at the games we spent so much money setting up…games which already are having enough problems…if you EMBARRASS us, you waiguoren motherfuckers…not only will there be consequences, but you don’t know the meaning of the words LONG TERM.

Some say the games aren’t about politics. Some say they are.
Not like Sam to ever listen to anyone but, ladies, take your silver and go home.
If you fight this battle, win or lose, you lose.

You have but one way out – be gracious. It’s the only play that pays.

Update Thing:  Caught a CNN comment from an American gymnastics coach about the relative weights of the Chinese squad versus the American squad.
The Yank said something like, “No way 16-year-olds weigh 80 pounds!”
Still without any solid evidence, and even with a sneaking suspicion, I say don’t go down that road.  Chinese kids are tiny…just smaller.  They are also better at math.  I’ve had high school students weighed 43 kg.  You do the math…x 2.2   I ain’t making any bets about Chinese gymnasts.
I’m still calling this comes down to single years and cultural differences in measuring age.  It’s the way out saves face and only requires producing a single set of forged docs merely one year off the mark (assuming subterfuge). 
In any case, the solution will have nothing to do with a reasonable application of the rules by western standards. 
Here’s the birth certificate – you say 15, WE say 16.  Beijing rules.  Home court, call your own fouls.


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