Monday, August 18, 2008

Faulty Tie-breaker Shows Liukin's Grace Beyond Her Years

David Flumenbaum seems to believe that he can prove the Chinese womens' gymnastics team is falsifying their ages. If this is true than the United States' Nastia Liukin deserves the uneven bars gold medal more now than she did last night. After a faulty tie- breaker (which will be broken down later in the article) resulted in He Kexin taking gold over Liukin, the United States gymnast looked visibly upset and confused yet held on her to composure and grace. Here is what happened.

He Kexin and Nastia Liukin both had high favors to medal in the uneven bars, both had identical start values 7.7 , and both scored the exact same on execution, 16.725. However, one thing separated them, He Kexin took a small step in her landing while Liukin nailed hers. When the scores came up He Kexin had been declared the gold medal winner with Liukin taking silver. As was seen around the arena everyone was wondering how He had taken gold when she had stepped on her landing and Liukin hadn't.

Lets break this down shall we:

First Tie Breaker: The start value. Since both gymnasts had equatable start values the judges moved onto;

Second Tie Breaker: The deductions taken by the middle four judges. They were equal for both gymnasts and then;

The Third ( and final ) Tie Breaker: The average of the three lowest of the four counting judges deductions. For He these came from Poland, New Zealand and Brazil. For Liukin; New Zealand, Bulgaria and the nail in the coffin Australia.
The Australian judge had given Liukin three tenths of a lower score than He - sealing her fate as a silver medal winner.

The irony in this judging in palpable, considering what happened in Sydney eight years ago. Need a refresher here you go;

At the 2000 Olympic games Chinese gymnast Yang Yung won a bronze medal on the uneven bars ( coincidental, I'm sure). A few years later in an interview Yung copped to being only 14 at the time of the Olympic games, admitting that both she and her coaches falsified documents and lied about her age to the International Olympics Committee (IOC).

Fast forward to 2008, Chinese gymnasts being accused of lying about their age, uneven bars, medal controversy- dicey.

The IOC rules and regulations were changed in the mid 90's to balance the age of gymnasts. The new regulations stated that gymnasts must be 16 in the year of the Olympics to compete. At the center of age debate are three Chinese athletes. Jiang Yuyan, Yang Yiung and He Kexin. It's stating the obvious to say that looking at a picture of these girls, one can only think they could be between the ages of 8 and 12. However, here are some interesting facts on He Kexin.

He's passport was issued on February 14, 2008 six months before the Olympics began and very close to the deadline when athlete information had to be submitted to the IOC. He's passport states that she is 16 years old, however in other documents recovered ( and since removed, because China has a very free press informational policy) her birthday is listed as January 1, 1994- making her 14 and ineligible. He also stands at 4'8 and 78 pounds. While gymnasts are known for being small, this seems almost too small, numerous gymnastics coaches have conceding that her height and weight is below average for a 16 year old gymnast.

So for Liukin, if the tie- breaker pill was not enough to swallow she must deal with all of this. However, to actually and legally be 16 she showed the world that she was graceful beyond her years; when asked as she was coming off the floor if tie-breaker and age disparity made winning the silver harder to deal with, she looked into the camera and said; He's a great athlete no matter what age, and these are the rules you have to play by.

Nastia- you deserve it, we all know that.