James Leroy Wilson's blog

Friday, August 15, 2008

I Don't Get Gymnastics

Reporting and opining on the controversy surrounding China's "women's" gymnastics team, Dan Wetzel writes, "In an effort to protect the health of athletes whose bones and muscles have not fully formed, FIG years ago instituted the 16-year-old age minimum. To compete in these Games, a gymnast had to be born in 1992 or earlier."

If China violated the rules, they should be stripped of the medals they win. But does this rule make sense?

Is this to say that younger girls are not allowed to train for any competitive gymnastics at all? That is preposterous; they do all the time, so why not compete at the Olympics?

I admit that I don't know much about it, so maybe there is something to this "protecting health" reason. But isn't it funny that using younger athletes constitutes an "unfair advantage?"

Is it the case that the real elite gymnasts are 12-15 years old, and 16+ constitutes a "senior's tour?"

Moreover, one tends to be "washed up" in the sport at a young age. Examples: the oldest member of the U.S. team is 20; of Australia, 19.

Except for those who happen to be 16 at one Olympics and still may be good enough at 20, everyone else has practically just one and only one shot at the Olympics. If you're 15 and at the top of your game, you're not eligible. If at 19 you break an ankle at trials, your opportunity is gone, because at 23 you will be past your prime.

This hardly seems fair.

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