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Bela Karolyi and the ages

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BEIJING -- Bela Karolyi is doing NBC television commentary for gymnastics, and even as he cheered on the U.S. women from his perch just above where the balance beam is located at the National Indoor Stadium, he also kept simmering over what he believes is China’s ‘blatant’ flouting of the sport’s age rules.

According to the international federation rules, Olympic and world championship competitors must turn 16 during the year they participate. The two Chinese women who have qualified for the individual all-around -- Yang Yilin and Jiang Yuyuan -- were named in several news reports as having birth dates on provincial registration lists in 1993 and 1994, respectively. According to passport information submitted to become Olympics eligible, they are now 16.

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After China outscored the U.S. in team qualifications, Karolyi said the Chinese team is using ‘half-people’ and that China is arrogant. ‘These people think we are stupid,’ Karolyi said. International federation officials have reiterated over the last two weeks that it is not their job to investigate ‘Internet’ reports or challenge the passport information submitted by a federation.

‘We are in the business of gymnastics,’ Karolyi said. ‘We know what a kid of 14 or 15 or 16 looks like. What kind of slap in the face is this? They are 12, 14 years old and they get lined up and the government backs them and the federation runs away. There is an age limit and it can’t be controlled.’

-- Diane Pucin


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