China: He Kexin and “babygate”

Imagethief picks up the debate on the age issue of He Kexin, the golden girl of Chinese gymnastics, and notices a cold-war double standard in some of the mainstream media report with a story plot of Ours=plucky, heroic achievers. Theirs=manufactured robots/slaves/dopers.


  • jeremy.

    i personally don’t know anything about He, but in my opinion, she does look a bit young.

    one, asians are naturally small. i would know, i am asian.
    and yes, yao ming is tall, but that doesn’t mean one chinese person speaks for all.

    and two, china is NOT a country who lies and cheats. they admitted that the little girl who lipsang was a show for us “westerners” so they can be more appreciated. we’re letting our stereotypic minds forget that china is trying to let people know of them, to show us what china has to offer. how dare you insult china. you act as if your country is better. stop belittling others and grow up.

    i don’t mean to be crude, but from what i’ve seen in asia, maybe the reason she has missing teeth is because of her financial state. maybe she can’t afford a better dental plan. i’ve been to philippines, since i am filipino, and trust me, i’ve seen far worse than He’s teeth.

    personally i think china was a wonderful host. this was my first time actually focusing on the olympics and i’m glad that it was in china.

  • jeremy.

    *my post was directed towards julie.

  • Kitsch

    Proof anyone?
    Despite Caroline’s spelling (she might have been in a hurry, who knows), at least she listed evidence- certificates, photos, passports, oh and maybe permission to compete by the IOC(before Americans suddenly figured He is too young after she got the gold).
    I have nothing to say if the rebuttal is “Chinese government lies.” It doesn’t grant you credibility if you can’t provide anything more valuable against it.

    For those who insists He is *no way* 16, well, so far the only supporting point I’ve read is .. He *looks* young.
    A gold medal is a big deal, He won it hard and rightfully. If anyone wants to question her, his/her efforts need to be, at least, equivalent and valid.

    Chinese gymnasts have always looked little. I’m not talking about the kids in my class or neighbourhood. Go watch the Athens Olympics, the Sydney Games, the 1984 Games. Videos are there.

    He looks indeed smaller than average Chinese girls today(truth is my mom looked even smaller when she was 18 in China’s hungry 70’s), actually the whole team does.
    They are on strict diet during training, thus entering puberty several years later. Many former Chinese gymnasts grow quite a few centimetres after they leave the national team.
    In Athens a girl won a medal and cried before the camera, saying that since she began training for the Olympics, “I haven’t had a real meal for a whole year.”

    Cheng Fei, the biggist girl, is 20, a popular player in China way before the Olympics. Look at the older ads and competitions, she hasn’t changed much really in 3 years. I bet no American would believe she was born in 1988 by her look anyway.
    This is a picture of He and Cheng, do you seriously think they are 8 years apart?

    Controversies are normal, but be reasonable. My assumption is IOC is more professional than any of us here.

  • Sue

    I said it before and I’ll say it again!

    I have heard on a number of occasions that the Chinese tradition for a “birthday” is when you were conceived not the actual birth. Granted this could vary greatly from one day to the next but they figure it out somehow. This could make a difference in her actual “birthday”.

    From what I have heard they only looked at the passport for He. There was no other evidence shown and the IOC accepted it. This IS a major controversy which should be looked in to immediately. And from the looks of it online, it will be! A passport can be tampered with!

    If there has been any cheating on any team-the medals for that sport should be stripped and given to the next person in line that competed. That country should also be banned for at least the next four years of competition and not be allowed to sponsor any Olympics in that country.

  • How they look is not the main point. The main point is that there is a trail of public and internal documents that suggest He Kexin is underage. There is also an apparent cover up of those documents, and there is a history of age falsification by China in gymnastics as recently as the 1994 Olympic games. These factors lead one to believe that there is likely some cheating going on that needs to be investigate.

    I would like to believe the IOC is a professional as assumed in the last reply, but unfortunately the latest issue of Foreign Policy magazine has an article that suggests they are as corrupt as anyone.

  • Amanda

    In regards to their not being any investigations until “Now that He Kexin won the gold..” their has been an ongoing age investigation way before the 2008 Olympics, but new evidence has been uncovered which proves she is under the age of 16, thus making this a much more hot topic. This is not about returning a gold medal to the deserving one, but about how the Chinese government covers up her age to get what they want. I agree that they are making it so they can illegally get as many gold medals as possible and will do anything to get them. I do not trust the Chinese government at all.

    The age limit is set in place for gymnastics for a reason, it has to do with being more limber and feerless when your 12 or 13, so Its a good thing to have a gymnast be at lease 16 so it is more fair, otherwise, lets have all countries enlist anyone into a gymnastic event regardless of the age.

    He Kexin should NOT have a gold medal, her routine was not flawless and I think actually she did not do as well as Nastia, (who was actually born in Russia). I can not wait until the day comes when Nastia is given what is rightfully and legitamitly hers!

  • knights

    ya American adults keep picking on a 16 year old? Pick someone your size ;-)

    I don’t know maybe you are 20, and you look 40?????

  • wei


    keep on waiting :) LOL

  • Kitsch

    I read what you wrote, since you’re so strong about it.. now allow me to explain what you’ve *heard* about Chinese age.

    In parts of China, a baby is born one year old(9 month pregnancy counted) and it’s more common in the south. People who do this usually count with the lunar calendar. It depends on different local pactices, ethnic groups and religions. It’s never something to be written down or taken officially.

    This is NOT an official practise and our documents(passport, ID, residence permits, etc) record our EXACT birthday and year. Lunar age is simply meaningless here.

    Excuse me but it’s really silly if you truly believe China reports to IOC with He’s lunar age, hasn’t EVERYONE here said China presented the girls’ passports? It was not like He’s mom told IOC He is 16 by a mother’s standard.

    I have an idea just how little people know about China. Sometimes I am still shocked…..

    Seriously who is actually uncovering any evidence here? I’ve been told repeatedly that “someone has solid evidence He’s underage” and then everybody starts accusing her. Already.
    I’m totally intrigued by that mysterious new evidence and that mysterious someone(who spoke out and vanished in the digital blackhole of online information) now. But it always ended up as “He just looks too small”. Solid as stone huh.
    (At least I gave a picture and asked questions?)

    Oh and be realistic. what makes this a “much more hot topic” is the gold medal. She’s been competing all these years and where was every angry one back then?
    Pre-Olympic investigations had to be closed before anyone could enter the games, as she said in the press conference: “I wouldn’t be here if I were not 16.” and she expressed clearly “I’m pretty sure how old I am.”

    I’d rather believe the Chinese government than a thousand over-excited Americans.

    And He’s routine didn’t have to be “flawless” to get the gold. She was the best on the field and that’s all that mattered.
    The point being, it doesn’t matter what you think, nor what I think. I personally think the girl ranking 3rd did best, and she received best and loudest on-site applause, who cares about what we think?

    As for whether He deserves the gold, I don’t think it’s up to just any TV viewer.
    The committee have professional, experienced, and well-trained eyes. The only way they should be questioned is by ediquately professional questions.

    At the end of the day, isn’t it simple that if real proof has been offered, given the power, the influence and resources, how would a country like the US settle with the result? At least not Nastia’s father given previous experiences.

    Is it because of Liukin’s worries about China’s homefield advantage?
    Well China reported unfair scoring many times to the IOC in previous Olympics, all hosted in other countries obviously.
    We got three results: requests rejected; requests accpeted and investigated, but scores unchanged; objections accepted, investigated and proven true, Chinese athletes actually won, the faulted judge was fired, but nothing could be changed by then.
    Truth is China has never get back a deserved gold, even when the IOC admitted their mistake.

    Chinese players still have that kind of faith after times and times of unfair results, why on earth would Americans be so low-profile?

    BTW we can tell Liukin was a Russian name. Chinese actually know quite a lot about Russia and the world.
    She was raised and trained in the US since 3, plus she represented the United States of America, which makes her American.

  • Sue

    Hey Knights-
    Us “American adults” are picking on the Chinese government for being deceitful and not telling the truth about the age of one of their Olmypic contenders. She is just a minor (whether she is 12 or 16) and really has no say in the matter. It is the adults who created this deception and should be punished as well.
    Maybe if she WAS 16 she would be closer to an adult size but alas she is not! She is not the one we are picking on. She is just the one caught in the middle of this international debacle.
    It will come out that she is under age and the penalites will be handed out. I just hope it is sooner rahter than later!
    Maybe they should have an age limit to post on this blog?!

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