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BEIJING 2008

New age licensing set for gymnasts

August 10, 2008|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

BEIJING -- While insisting there is no evidence that any underage gymnasts are participating in the Olympics, Bruno Grandi, president of FIG, the international governing body of gymnastics, said Saturday that a new licensing system will be instituted within the next year.

After giving a 32-minute "state of gymnastics" address during which he said that the size of teams will decrease from six to five beginning next year and that he was uncomfortable with the emphasis on difficult tricks as opposed to artistry, Grandi dismissed reporting that seems to indicate as many as three Chinese female gymnasts don't meet the requirement of turning 16 during the Olympic year.

"FIG has no basis to doubt the information on the passport of the athletes," Grandi said. Documents received by several news organizations, including The Times, showed He Kexin, Yang Yilin and Jiang Yuyuan with registered birthdays in 1993 or 1994 that were changed on passports submitted to the federation within the last year.

Another Chinese gymnast, Yang Yun, says in a documentary available on YouTube that she was 14 during the 2000 Sydney Olympics, when she won a bronze medal.

When asked about Yang's quote, Grandi said, "We make our controls on the passport. The Internet is not an official document."

Though saying that he is confident there are no underage athletes competing here, Grandi said that beginning next year, FIG will issue licenses to all junior and senior gymnasts. The license will be based on passport information.

What makes it different than the current system is that gymnasts entered in any FIG-sanctioned junior competition will need the license. Now, ages aren't verified in junior competitions.

The reduction of teams from six to five members is to help athletes from smaller federations. The Olympics allows 98 male and female gymnasts total. Twelve teams qualify with six athletes each for a total of 72. Five-member teams will allow for another 12 individual entries.

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diane.pucin@latimes.com

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