The question that is most often asked is why did China cheat? China cheated in the 2008 Women’s Gymnastics by sending girls well under the age of 16 to compete in Olympic gymnastics, but why? What did China and their gymnastics team gain by cheating and lying to the remaining Olympic teams?
This article presents the top 10 reasons in reverse order of importance.
10. Female athletes past the age of 16 are physically developed and have weight distribution that is quite different from younger gymnasts. In some events, this provides an advantage to girls less developed. It is easier for them to perform many of the exercises. Most that have won gold are 16 or younger.
9. Psychology has much to do with the issue. Older athletes feel the pressure more than children who are not mature enough to possess the same feelings of pressure and stress. Younger kids worry less. Experienced coaches know this. Bela Karolyi, the former coach of Olympic gold medalists Nadia Comaneci and Mary Lou Retton, was interviewed before the Chinese performed, and said, “This young Chinese team (is) using 14-15 year olds, all kids, they have no pressure…”.
8. Younger girls appear to be less prone to injury. Whether this is because of flexibility issues or some other reason is not known. Some of these statistics can be seen here.
7. Pressure is another factor related to 9 above. For older girls there is much less of chance of repeating in the Olympics. That makes it a much more do or die scenario. The younger girls can look at it more as just another competition or preparation for future games taking the pressure off.
6. A nation choosing to violate the rules and enter younger girls into the Olympics allows the girls to acquire more experience in the Olympics at a younger age. Sneaking in 12-14 year olds allows those athletes to return at 16-18 well seasoned in Olympic competition giving the team better odds of delivering winners. Most 16 year olds in the competition will likely not be able to compete again in future Olympics due to age issues and injury, but a 12-14 year old is guaranteed, if she remains healthy, to have a solid opportunity to repeat. Essentially, for most women gymnasts, their career is over by 18.
5. The Olympics are only once every 4 years!! Some of your best talent may never get a chance to compete. Girls that are 15 are excluded from the Olympics. Their probability of maintaining their level of excellence, avoiding injury and surviving as competitors given the general pressures of teen-hood for four years, and then performing in their first Olympics at 19-20 is slim. China’s dishonesty takes advantage of all the countries that could not send girls that were within just months or days of the requirement.
4. Smaller Framed women have less of a chance of going out of bounds during floor exercises because they can execute the same move in a shorter distance.
3. Prescreening. Some girls can perform when in practice, but cannot in the stadium. This provides the team a chance to screen the participants prior to giving them key positions on the team for future competitions.
2. Psychological advantage. The girls on competing teams know the other girls are cheating to take an advantage and it impacts their performances.
1. First and foremost, sneaking in underage girls widens the field of prospects considerably. If you are limited to just girls over 16, you have a much narrower field to select from. A girl 2 months shy of the deadline, healthy and with as good a prospects as a girl only 2 months her senior cannot be considered, even if the older girl is injured or is not as talented. China could consider everyone because they are dishonest and have no problem with cheating to get the best of their girls to the Olympics. Many American Olympic gymnastic athletes had injuries, but because the USA follows the rules, many 15 year olds that were readily available could not take their place. The US had to enter the all-around competition with numerous injured athletes.
Deng LinLin of China walks by Nastia Liukin and Alicia Sacramone during the Women’s Gymnastics Team Finals in Beijing, China on August 13,2008.
China’s cheating hurts everyone. It is a disgrace. And it isn’t the first time. The Chinese were caught “red” handed in the 2000 Olympics lying to the world and got caught. It hurts all our girls that could not go and may never get the chance to go. And every girl they cheat from other nations out of an opportunity comes at a stiff price to that country and their potential medalists. China is not only cheating, they are stealing from those nations and participants that obey the rules.
We believe China should be suspended from the next Olympic games entirely as the truth comes out and everyone realizes that they cheated once again.