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Valeri Liukin says dump the age rule

August 15, 2008 |  8:08 am

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BEIJING -- It's not sour grapes now.

Nastia Liukin's father and coach, Valeri Liukin, said the international gymnastics federation would be wise to eliminate the age rule that requires gymnastics athletes to be at least 16 or turn 16 during the year they compete in the Olympics and world championships.

The issue has been in the forefront of gymnastics discussion because of some evidence that three of the girls on the gold medalist Chinese team may be too young to compete.

Liukin, who turns 19 in October, just missed that cut-off for the 2004 Olympics. Athens all-around gold medalist Carly Patterson trained at the gym run by Valeri Liukin, WOGA in Parker, Texas, and Rebecca Bross, a 14-year-old who also trains at the gym, was just shy of being old enough for these Games.

"It's a shame Rebecca couldn't compete this year," said Valeri Liukin. While he wouldn't criticize China directly, he said, gymnastics would be better off without an age limit. "Let everybody compete and be fair," he said. "That's the best way."

-- Diane Pucin

Photo: Gold medalist Nastia Liukin poses with her father and coach, Valeri Liukin, on Friday in Beijing. Credit: Julian Finney / Getty Images