Monday, July 28, 2008

虚报年龄为专制党政增光 Issues raised about Chinese athletes' ages

Photos: China's youth brigade Blog: Ticket to BeijingChinese gymnast He Kexin may not be old enough for Olympics. Chinese diver Chen Ruolin may have been too young for worlds


虚报年龄为专制党政增光 Issues raised about Chinese athletes' ages

Issues raised about Chinese athletes' ages

Documents indicate two female gymnasts appear to be younger than once listed by the Chinese federation. Olympic eligibility could be affected.

By Diane Pucin, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
July 28, 2008

Less than two weeks before the Beijing Olympics, a potential scandal involving at least two of China's most high-profile sports is threatening to tarnish those Games.

According to documents obtained by The Times, two Chinese gymnasts appear to be younger than once listed by the Chinese federation while a diver appeared to have her age changed to be eligible for last year's world championships, though she would be eligible for the Olympics.

The issue of age for gymnasts He Kexin and Jiang Yuyuan was first reported Sunday by the New York Times. Additional documents indicate the practice is more widespread. Diver Chen Ruolin appeared to have her age raised in time for her to win a gold and a silver medal at the 2007 world meet in Melbourne, Australia.

One indication that the Beijing government apparently was moving quickly to douse any hint of scandal came late Saturday night, Los Angeles time, as some relevant Chinese websites were taken down and parts of one message board were erased.

As in the U.S., there are message boards in China where fans chat and gossip about the most popular sports.

Particularly women's gymnastics.

For well over a year, Chinese fans have been intrigued by the quick rise of uneven bars performer He Kexin, and not only for her rising scores of over 17.000 but also about her rising age.

As reported by the New York Times, there have been open discussions in gymnastics circles about the proper ages for some of the Chinese women gymnasts, especially He. Since 1997, international gymnastics rules have required that a gymnast must turn 16 during an Olympic year to be eligible for the Games.

According to official Chinese registration lists that had been available on the Internet, He may be only 14.

In fact, according to an Associated Press report of a Nov. 3, 2007, speech by Liu Peng, director of general administration of sport for China, there was no question she was too young. "The 13-year-old uneven-bar gymnast He Kexin," Liu said, "who defeated national team athlete Yang Yilin -- she just won the bronze medal in the world championships -- has demonstrated her ability." To be eligible for the Chinese City Games where Liu made his remarks, documents show athletes must be over 13 but under 15.

And gymnastics is not the only sport in which Chinese athletes' birth dates seem changeable. The Los Angeles Times has received records for female diver Chen Ruolin that indicated her birth date as April 26, 1994, changed in 2007.

As reported by the New China (Xinhua) news agency on July 18, Chen was born Dec. 12, 1992, in the Jiangsu province.

But according to a 2003 Chinese national diving registration list that still could be found online as of Sunday night, Chen was born on April 26, 1994. Her birth date remained the same in 2004, 2005 and 2006 but on the 2007 list, it was changed to Dec. 12, 1992.

If the 1994 birth date is correct, Chen competed illegally at the 2007 world championships, where she won a silver medal in the 10-meter platform and a gold medal with teammate Jia Tong in the 10-meter synchronized platform.

In diving, competitors must turn 14 during the year they compete in any official World Cup, world championships or Olympics. So Chen is eligible for these Olympics but might not have been when she competed at the 2007 world championships.

Asked whether the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games was concerned with the questions about possibly underage Chinese athletes, spokesman Sun Weide said today, "You have to check your facts. You have to check with the Chinese Olympic Committee."

Attempts to reach a Chinese Olympic Committee spokesperson were unsuccessful.

Zhou Jihong, China's national diving team leader, said, "Those newspaper reports about Chen's [being] underage is not true. We can fax to you Chen Ruolin's birth certificate and ID card to prove it. We don't want the rumor [to affect] our athletes two weeks before the Olympic Games."

Ron O'Brien, U.S. high performance director for diving and former coach of Greg Louganis, said, "We've always felt that it's hard to document China. We take them at their word that they're not breaking any rules. If [Chen] is not of age and was illegally entered into the world championships, then it is up to FINA to deal with it. Our team and plan are firmly in place. Nothing will change that."

FINA is the international governing body of diving, swimming and water polo.

USC diving coach Hongping Li, who is from China, said Sunday that while he couldn't speak about Chen personally, the shifting birth dates for some Chinese athletes does not surprise him.

"It is a thing where if it is believed by the athlete to be done for the glory of the country, if it is best for the country, then it should be done. Am I surprised this might be done? No."

Stories in China about uneven bars athlete He have been open about listing her age as 14.

For example, a story published Dec. 2, 2007, in the Beijing Evening News includes this sentence: "To make up for the disadvantages of the women's team on uneven bars, the 13-year-old young athlete He, Kexin might be the secret weapon for the Olympics game."

On a Chinese message board,, there was a discussion thread about He that began last year.

"Only 13 years old. Not enough is the new star for the next Olympics," wrote one poster.

Another answered: "The age of Chinese members is never a problem."

And that was followed by: "In addition, age is not a problem. It is said that her FIG-registered age is born in [19]92. The official spokesperson can say it straight that the city competition's Internet date is mistaken. It should be based on the registration of FIG."

Also, "In China age is never a problem. Li Ya competed in [20]03's World Competition when she was 13."

FIG is the international gymnastics federation.

Li Ya was on the Chinese team that finished fourth at the 2003 gymnastics world championships in Anaheim. Li also finished fourth on the balance beam.

And finally, "It's too late to fix He's age. Many foreigners already knew it. It would need to change the name and use a false record to see if it can go through." The reply to this suggestion? "It doesn't matter. If He, Kexin's skills are very good we Chinese can change her age very easily. I think this is pretty much the norm for Chinese teams."

The Times received evidence that the alteration of ages was not started solely for the Beijing Games.

In addition, "Report from Fu, Guoliang at the Meeting Relating to Hunan Province's Participations in Olympics in Sydney," which was still available online Sunday afternoon , made reference to gymnast Yang Yun, who participated in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

"The actual age of gymnastic athlete Yang Yun is only 14. When she first tried in Sydney Games, she attracted attention from gymnastic fields. She has great potential in the future." Yang's career ended prematurely because of injuries.

Yang Yun had become the topic of recent discussions when a YouTube video of a documentary entitled "Yang Yun: My Olympics" was posted. About 3 minutes 10 seconds into the video Yang says, "I was 14 years old in Sydney."

Also, on Friday, a Zhejiang Province registration list showed another 2008 Olympian, Jiang Yuyuan, as being born in 1993, which would make her age-ineligible for next month's Games. That link was disabled Sunday.

On the U.S. team, Alicia Sacramone and Chellsie Memmel are 20; Nastia Liukin is 18; and Shawn Johnson, Samantha Peszek and Bridget Sloan are 16.

FIG is responsible for approving athletes for competition.

Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics, in a brief statement Sunday said, "This is an FIG and IOC issue."

According to the New York Times, FIG Secretary General Andre Gueisbuhler responded to questions about He's age by saying:

"We heard these rumors and we immediately wrote to the Chinese gymnastics federation. They immediately sent a copy of the passport, showing the age, and everything is OK. That's all we can check." He also told the New York Times FIG would be "quite happy to check and ask again" if anyone filed a formal complaint.

USA Gymnastics officials were clear that the U.S. would not file a complaint and had not filed one.

Women's gymnastics competition in Beijing begins Aug. 10. The U.S. won the 2007 world championship team gold medal, with China a close second.

Philip Hersh, who covers Olympic sports for The Times and the Chicago Tribune, contributed to this report from Beijing. Times contributor Jordan Schultz also contributed to this report from Los Angeles.







对此中国官员立即作出回应,向纽约时报提供这两位被质疑运动员的护照副本,她们是最有希望获得高低杠金牌的何可欣和江钰源,年龄都是16岁 ,这是奥运会自1997年以来规定的参赛者最低年龄。

不过,国际体操协会(International Gymnastics Federation)的官员表示,何的年龄已受到中国新闻媒体和美国体操队及体操爱好者的质疑。中国官方网站张贴及官方新闻媒体报导的选手年龄,显示何和江只有14岁,都在奥运规定参赛的年龄以下,这与护照信息矛盾。

北京奥运会女子体操比赛开始于8月8日,预计美国和中国之间将有激烈争夺金牌的比赛。在2007年的世界锦标赛上,美国领先0.95分。在高低杠项目,何与美国的柳金(Nastia Liukin)预计将竞争个人金牌。


纽约时报发现两个网上记录,一个是中国体操选手的正式登记名单,那里何的生日是1994年1月1日,因此她只有14 岁。这个2007年中国体操运动员的国家登记册,现在被中国关闭,但可透过古狗的缓存看到,何的生日是“1994.1.1”。




但在浙江省体育总局青年运动员名单上,江有一个不同的出生日期,表明她尚未过15岁 。该运动员名单包括带有出生日期的国家身份证号码。江的身份证号码上的出生日期为1993年10月1日,这表明她不到15岁,因此不符合北京奥运会的竞争资格。

最近,1984年洛杉矶奥运会体操全能冠军玛丽·瑞藤(Mary Lou Retton)观看了何和其他中国高低杠选手的比赛录像。她说:“女孩这么少,这么年轻”。谈到何时,瑞藤笑着说:“他们说她16岁 ,但我不知道[是否这样]” 。



该协会秘书长安德烈·奎斯伯勒(Andre Gueisbuhler )表示:“我们听到这些传言后,立即写信给中国体操协会”。 “他们很快送来护照副本,显示运动员年龄是正确的,这就是我们能够进行的所有检查”。

如果有人提供证据,证明任何一个体操运动员未达法定年龄参赛,或提交一份正式投诉,奎斯伯勒表示,他将“非常高兴检查并再次询问” 。他说:“只要我们没得到正式投诉,就没有理由采取行动”。


前苏联五次奥运金牌得主娜莉·金(Nellie Kim)认为,年轻体操运动员的优势在于她们的体重较轻,往往表演高难度动作时胆子更大。金现在是总部设在瑞士的国际体操协会妇女技术委员会主席。她说:“这很容易欺骗”。



曾帮助美国的瑞藤和罗马尼亚的纳迪亚·科马内奇荣获奥运金牌的教练贝拉·凯瑞利(Bela Karolyi )表示,体操运动员的年龄问题已存在多年。在一个独裁国家改变年龄很容易,他说,因为政府可以严格控制官方文件。

他回忆,在1991年世界锦标赛上,朝鲜体操运动员金光淑(Kim Gwang Suk,音译)的前门牙缺两颗。 他认为金当时不超过11岁,其他人争议,金的前牙还是婴儿牙齿,尚未换恒牙。而她的教练说,多年前她在高低杠训练期间发生意外,磕掉这些牙。

在那些世界锦标赛中,金4英尺4英吋高,体重约62磅,她称自己16 岁。在这个问题上,北朝鲜体操协会连续3年称她为15岁;该协会后来因虚报年龄被禁止参加1993年的世界锦标赛。


中国的杨云(Yang Yun,音译)在2000年悉尼奥运会赢得个人和团队铜牌,稍后在接受国家电视台采访时,她透露在那些比赛中她只有14岁。湖南省体育总局后来也报告说,她在悉尼比赛时只有14岁。





现住香港的前羽毛球国家队成员王晨说,在中国,当运动员比输时,教练会公开表达他们的不满。她说:“那时我真的很愤慨。”现在,她将代表香港参加北京奥运。她微笑地说:“香港的教练要我寓赛于乐。从前,羽毛球是我生活的唯一。现在, 只是我生活的一部份。”


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