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So how old were the Chinese gymnasts?

March 5, 2009 |  8:22 am

Kexin Just when we thought it was safe to think of the Chinese women gymnasts -- the ones suspected of being younger than turned-16-the-year-of-the-Olympics -- as really, truly 16 or older during the Beijing Olympics, here comes a report that a top gymnastics official may believe otherwise.

Bruno Grandi, president of the international gymnastics federation, suggested in an interview he gave to the German gymnastics publication Leon that there may have been age falsification, according to a report in International Gymnast. 

Grandi, who strongly and frequently supported the acceptance of Chinese passports as the final word on the ages of uneven-bars gold medalist He Kexin, as well as Yang Yilin and Jiang Yuyuan, during the Olympics, said in the interview with Leon that there was "strong circumstantial evidence" of age falsification by the Chinese.

Good one, Mr. Grandi. As some may recall, Grandi even denied it was any evidence of wrongdoing when another Chinese gymnast, Yang Yun, said on a Chinese state-run television interview that she had been only 14 when competing for the 2000 Olympic bronze medal-winning team (also a violation of the age rule). Yang's own words, Grandi said, could not be taken as the truth because that interview was available on YouTube and other sites and, "the Internet is not an official document." Even if the words spoken were by the gymnast in question.

There hasn't been any other evidence of age falsification since that reported by several media outlets including the Los Angeles Times before the start of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, so Grandi must have decided the evidence he dismissed last August is more compelling eight months later.

-- Diane Pucin

Photo: Chinese gymnast He Kexin waves to the crowd just before receiving the gold medal in the uneven bars at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times