A young Chinese gymnastics team with no prior international exposure is currently representing China at the Rio Olympic Games.
Team manager Ye Zhennan has deemed the team ready as all the members meet the minimum age requirement set by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG), reported South China Morning Post. Ye’s statement is also aimed to set aside worries of enlisting underage players which have been the source of doubt towards the team in the past.
Allegations of enlisting underage gymnasts have plagued the Chinese delegations at two previous Olympics — Beijing in 2008 and Sydney back in 2000. To be eligible to play, Olympic guidelines state that gymnasts must turn 16 during an Olympic year.
In the 2008 Beijing Games, it was reported that one member of the team, He Kexin was 14 at the time. Investigations conducted by the FIG, however, failed to find evidence of the alleged cheating.
What it unearthed was the team’s infraction during the 2000 Sydney Olympics when a member of the Chinese team failed to meet the age criteria. China was later stripped of the bronze medal that they received.
Shang Chunsong, 20, is the oldest of the squad that includes teammates, Wang Yan (16), Fan Yilin (16), Mao Yi (19) and Liu Tingting (15). Liu Tingting hasn’t competed in any international competition. Reserves Liu Jinru (15), Luo Huan (16) and Tan Jiaxin (19) complete the roster of the team that would make its Olympic debut in this year’s games.
Among the members of this year’s team, Fan has had the most international experience, winning the uneven bars at the 2015 World Championships in Glasgow last November and helped also helping the team win silver behind the United States.
“I don’t think age is a problem for us as many of the Chinese gymnasts usually reach their best when they are 16 or 17,” said Fan, who won the competition along two Russians and an American in a four-way tie for gold. “Many of us start gymnastics at a very young age and although we may lack international exposure compared to athletes from other countries, we are under no pressure and can always mount strong challenges.”
“In fact, we can do better and complete more difficult moves compared to the Western gymnasts. I hope to win gold on the uneven bars in Rio and I’ve targeted at least a silver medal in the team event with the United States our strongest opponents.”
According to Ye, the squad’s high level of training more than makes up for their lack of international exposure.
“Young athletes are willing to challenge their opponents and coupled with a high level training, they can do the job properly,” he said.