Tag Archives: Dong Fangxiao

Chinese gymnasts who looked older than they were

Anyone who’s been on the gymternet within the past two and a half years will be aware that China have competed loads of underage gymnasts, and have, if we’re being charitable and assuming they only started it in the internet age when it was harder to get away with, been doing it for over a decade.  When this first became public knowledge back in 08, in the run up to Beijing, various trolls tried to downplay things and stop the discussion entirely. When that failed, some then tried to suggest it was all a load of orientalist colonialism from evil Westerners who didn’t understand that all Chinese gymnasts look eleven.

Of course, some of them don’t. And here’s the proof.

Here is the lovely Yang Yun in 2000. I never, ever would have guessed she was only 14 then. The interview when she admitted her real age came as a total revelation. She was so glamorous! She looked older than I did in 2000, and unlike her I was actually born in 1984.


He Wenna, at 1.45 onwards in this video. A year younger than Cheng Fei, apparently. In other news, my arse is the pope.

Liu Xuan in 2000, every inch the glamourpuss and a stunning Olympic beam champion. It didn’t hurt either that she was righting history, after her mum’s apparently promising gymnastics career was sadly cut short by the Cultural Revolution. Of course, she was the ripe old age of 21 then, and it’s not difficult to look mature next to a load of scrawny teenagers. Especially when at least two of your team are underage anyway (Yang Yun and Dong Fangxiao, for those who don’t know). But even in 1994-5 when she was a new senior, she still looked older than her age.

Then last but not least,  Mo Huilan.

Mo Huilan, I hear you cry, incredulously. And yes it’s true, she looked about 11 when she went senior. Here she is in 1994, doing one of the most exciting bars routines of the decade and getting the highest score of the day. I even love the form fault in the hecht transition. Whether she was 11 or not, Stoi couldn’t possibly comment.

But by 1996, she was positively mature looking. Love the Cindy Crawford style mole (incidentally I read somewhere the other day that people with moles on their faces age better!) Maybe it was because she had the weight of the world on her shoulders.

It’s almost as if not all Chinese gymnasts look 5 years younger than they actually are, isn’t it?

Posted by Clara