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U.S. women’s gymnastics team will get Olympic bronze ... 10 years later

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Members of the 2000 U.S. women’s gymnastics team will soon be receiving bronze medals from the Sydney Olympics after China was stripped of the bronze medal Wednesday for competing with an underage gymnast.

An investigation by the International Gymnastics Federation found that Dong Fangxiao was only 14 while competing for China in the 2000 Olympics. Gymnasts must be 16 or older at some point during the Olympic year to be eligible, so the federation nullified her results and recommended that the International Olympic Committee take the bronze medals back.

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The IOC executive board formally stripped the medals on the first day of a two-day meeting in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. China’s Olympic committee was ordered to return the medals ‘as soon as possible’ so they could be given to the U.S. team, which initially took fourth place.

Until Wednesday, the 2000 Olympics were the only time since 1976 that the U.S. women’s gymnastics team had not won any Olympic medals (the U.S. boycotted the 1980 Moscow Games).

‘Sydney was a beautiful Olympics; they did a great job. But it was hard when people would ask, ‘What medal did you guys get?’ U.S. team member Tasha Schwikert said. ‘It’s going to be nice to say, ‘We did get a medal. We got the bronze in Sydney.’

[Updated at 1:44 p.m.: Questions surrounding Dong’s age surfaced during the International Gymnastics Federation’s investigation of the ages of some of China’s gymnasts who competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Although those gymnasts were cleared and that case was closed, the federation said it wasn’t satisfied with ‘the explanations and evidence provided to date’ for Dong and another Sydney gymnast, Yang Yun, who was later let off with a warning.

Dong worked as a national technical official for the Beijing Olympics. Her accreditation information listed her birthday as Jan. 23, 1986, which would have made her 14 in Sydney.

Also, Dong’s blog said she was born in the Year of the Ox in the Chinese zodiac (Feb. 20, 1985, to Feb. 8, 1986). Her birth date in the International Gymnastics Federation database is listed as Jan. 20, 1983.]

-- Chuck Schilken

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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