Chinese Gymnasts May be Underage

Passports say girls are 16, but other documents put them at 14
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 27, 2008 8:05 AM CDT
Legendary gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi notes that olympic gymnasts have been lying about their ages for years, and that it's easy for an authoritarian country to alter official paperwork.   (AP Photo/Mark Stehle)
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(Newser) – Two of China's Olympic gymnasts may be younger than the cutoff age of 16, although their passports indicate otherwise, the New York Times reports. He Kexin and Jiang Yuyuan both hold papers citing 1991 birthdates, but previous competition records indicate they may be just 14. Why would China want to slip younger gymnasts onto its team?

Lighter girls may hold an advantage over their competitors, says former gold medalist Nellie Kim. “It’s easier to do tricks, and psychologically, I think they worry less.” Authorities say that the newspaper accounts and registration lists erred in listing the girls' birth years as 1994. The International Gymnastics Federation says it can do nothing more than check the girls' passports.