Posts Tagged ‘2000 Olympic Games’

In the case of Dong Fangxiao…

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Last week the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique made its announcement: Dong Fangxiao will have her individual Olympic results from Sydney 2000 nullified (the FIG has yet to rule on the team bronze won by China). She was found to be 14-years-old at the 2000 Olympic Games, two years short of the age requirement of 16. Teammate Yang Yun, who later admitted she was also only 14 at the time, will retain her bronze medal on bars, due to insufficient proof that she was underage.

Dong Fangxiao, 2000 Olympic Games, NBC Fluff

Dong Fangxiao, 2000 Olympic Games, Floor Exercise

This scandal is the third in a string of blemishes marking the women’s competition in Sydney. The all-around was marred first by the vault setting error, and then by all-around champion Andreea Raducan’s positive test for pseudoephedrine (no longer a banned substance).

Cheaters do need to be punished, but what is the appropriate punishment in this case? Is this really fair to strip Dong and her teammates of their medal when she was just a young gymnast who likely played no role in the deceit? And 10 years later, it’s hardly fair to punish the new generation of gymnasts by banning them from FIG competitions, as happened to North Korea in the early 1990s. (Then again, that’s not to say that this kind of cheating is a thing of the past…we all know of the controversy surrounding He Kexin and Deng Linlin at the 2008 Olympic Games!)

And what about all the other gymnasts who have later admitted to being underage at major competitions? If Dong and Yang’s cases were only investigated because they fell in the 10-year time frame, does that not seem a bit arbitrary? What about looking into the real birth dates of other gymnasts who have admitted being underage, most notably Romanians stars Gina Gogean, Sabina Cojocar, Alexandra Marinescu, Daniela Silivas and Ecaterina Szabo? (I find it amusing that Bela Karolyi was one of the most vocal critics during the age controversy in Beijing!)

A Brief History of Underage Gymnastics

Unfortunately, it’s the countries that play by the rules who suffer most when others cheat. Canada had some wonderful junior gymnasts in 2008 (most notably Charlotte Mackie, Peng Peng Lee and Brittany Rogers) and along with Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs, Kristina Vaculik and Nansy Damianova, we most likely would have qualified a full team to the Olympics had they been allowed to contribute routines at the qualifying World Championships the year before.

Perhaps the best solution is a proactive one: birth dates for gymnasts should be checked carefully by the FIG before they start competing internationally, and national federations should be warned that there will be more severe sanctions should they try to cheat.

Part of me thinks there shouldn’t be an age limit at all, thus eliminating this dilemma, but I acknowledge the importance of protecting young children from the pressures of international competition. Raising the age limit from 15 to 16, as the FIG did in 1997, might have actually increased the incidence of cheating since many female gymnasts are often in top form well before age 16.

I feel sorry for Dong Fangxiao since she is embroiled in this mess that she surely didn’t create. It’s also a shame that her career was cut short due to her hip dysplasia. Stay tuned for the FIG’s ruling on China’s team bronze medal….

The Faulty Vault

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Quick, who were the Olympic All-Around Champions in 2000? Alexei Nemov and, um, Simona Amanar? It always takes me an extra second to remember that Amanar’s name is officially at the top of the list. With 50% of the field competing on a vault that was set 5 cm too low, the playing field was hardly fair. American Elise Ray suffered a scary crash when she missed the vault entirely in warm-ups, and then proceeded to fall on both vaults during the biggest competition of her life. “It really scared me. I felt something was wrong but I didn’t know what it was. I was so disappointed. It carried over to the next three events. I can’t believe a setting could be wrong at the Olympic Games.” (source: International GYMNAST magazine, November 2000)

Five of the gymnasts from the affected rotations did decide to take another attempt: Elise Ray (who by then had already fallen off the balance beam), Sara Moro (ESP), Galina Tyryk (UKR), Lisa Mason (GBR) and Jana Komrskova (CZE).

Svetlana Khorkina of Russia, a gold medal contender, crashed on vault in the first rotation and then found herself in the wrong mental mindset before her best event: the uneven bars. She then fell on a Stalder-Tkatchev on an event where she was already a 4-time World Champion and the defending Olympic Champion. It was only after the disastrous bars routine that Khorkina was advised of the equipment error in her previous rotation. She chose not to repeat the vault.

After seeing several mistakes on vault during the preliminary rounds, one cannot help but wonder if perhaps the vault was set to the wrong height at this time as well. There were several crashes not characteristic of an Olympic Games to which the gymnasts have devoted years of their training. Here is a montage posted by maloneystibiarod. You’ll notice that every single one of these gymnasts underrotates the vault due to insufficient block off the horse.

2000 Sydney Olympic Gymnastics Vault Crashes – Was the vault too low in prelims?

0:05 to 0:16 Elise Ray misses her hands in warm-ups

0:17 to 0:26 Her competition vaults

0:27 to 0:34 Svetlana Khorkina’s timing is off

0:35 to 0:37 The vault height is reset

0:41 to 0:51 Allana Slater (AUS) shows horrendous technique, form and execution (totally atypical of her usual gymnastics!). She was the first gymnast to notice the incorrect vault setting.

0:52 to 1:00 Liu Xuan (CHN) underrotated her Yurchenko-1.5 and could have seriously injured her knees

1:01 to 1:03 Brooke Walker (AUS) actually overrotated her vault

1:04 to 1:20 Chinese Kui Yuanyuan’s Olympic Games were over after this vault

1:21 to 1:33 Slater’s second vault is even worse than the first. She’s lucky she wasn’t hurt (and that the judges didn’t give her a 0.000 for not having her feet touch the ground first!)

1:34 to 2:24 Kristen Maloney (USA) hurts her leg on the first vault but prepares for her second vault like a trooper.

In addition to the vaulting error, there was of course the whole fiasco surrounding Andreea Raducan, the Romanian stripped of her All-Around Gold after pseudoephedrine from cold medicine was found in her system. I don’t think most gymnastics fans would believe that this substance could possibly have given her an advantage over the competition. In fact, it is no longer listed as banned substance by the IOC, and yet her name has been removed from Olympic All-Around records. It’s a pity that due to the faulty vault setting and the pseudoephedrine scandal, Amanar’s Olympic win will always have a large asterisk beside it.

Here’s a great montage posted by mfinger that pretty much sums up the All-Around event at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games: some great gymnastics, some botched vaults, some unexpected errors on floor…and China’s first medal in the All-Around, courtesy of Liu Xuan!

Sydney – Khorki, Zamo and Karpenko’s disaster

0:04 Simona Amanar (ROM)

0:22 Yelena Zamolodchikova (RUS)

0:34 Andreea Raducan (ROM)

0:48 Svetlana Khorkina (RUS)

1:14 Standings after the first rotation: Khorkina in the lead

1:17 Amanar

1:25 Zamolodchikova

1:43 Raducan

1:54 Khorkina

2:15 Adjusting the vault to the proper height

2:20 Viktoria Karpenko (UKR)

2:46 Standings after the second rotation: Zamolodchikova in the lead

2:48 Raducan

2:57 Khorkina

3:15 Karpenko

3:34 Amanar

3:51 Karpenko

4:31 Raducan

Interesting side notes: Raducan was one of the gymnasts to vault on the incorrect setting during the All-Around, but she still managed to score 9.706! Even though her Gold medal was taken from her, she was allowed to keep her Silver vault medal a couple of days later, as the pseudoephedrine had cleared her system by this point.