Chinese Olympic competitors and their age?

One new thing I have learnt this Olympics is that gymnastic competitors need to be 16 years old this year. I’m sure it used to less 20 or 30 years ago but 16 is what it now is.

A few people had noticed, well I imagine *quite* a few people, that the Chinese team seemed to have set up camp near a spring of eternal youth. In other words some of their competitors looked mighty young. It’s hard to tell with teenagers, and I have two of them, how old they are just by looks and so I didn’t really think much of it. Maybe they were particularly youthful looking, who knows, and really who cares. However last night while channel surfing I stumbled across the 10m platform diving and heard the commentators mention the 16 year old girl weighed 28kg. I usually associated “girl”,”16 years old” and “28 kg” with the words ‘anorexia’ or ‘bulimia’ and not ‘incredibly fit Olympic athlete’. I assumed that maybe she was very small and so today through the magic of the Intertubes I checked on who she was. Her name doesn’t matter, you can work it out if you want to, but she is listed as being 137cm (4’6″) and 28kg (62lbs). “Aha”, I thought she *is* short, and then I wondered what her BMI was. Now BMI can’t really be used for kids and the Nintendi Wii Fit has caused a few issues, for example here, because it uses BMI as a measure of fitness.

However it’s a quick calculation and I expected a low number, which is what fit kids usually have…but not that low… Now having seen kids grow and dutifully filled out our growth charts for our own children and gone through throug the usual worry about lack of growth periods etc. I guessed that growth charts might well exists for Chinese kids. Now, I have no idea if Chinese kids are taller or shorter than Ozzie kids, and lets’s face it, who cares, but I thought I’d at least get some growth charts possibly more appropriate than what I have.

Yet again through the wonders of the Intertubes I came across “Growth Charts for Chinese Children“. and not surprising they look pretty much the same as western kids. Funny about that when you’re all the same species. The next step was to put on the chart where this athlete currently is. The results are below.

Now I realise that China has 1.2 Billion people to choose from so you’d expect that they might choose some smaller people to minimise the splash entry however if you look at all of the preliminary competitors for the 10m diving you will see the 2 Chinese competitors, and one other, stand out like sore thumbs. If you then generate a graph of heigh versus weight for 19 competitors you get to see what sort of height and weight the rest of world choose for their competitors for the 10m event. The rest of the world has at least China’s population to choose from, (we’re ignoring most of the 3rd world here), and so I’d expect a fair spread that encompasses little miss “X” in the graph above. It doesn’t.

Something is not adding up? I think China has some explaining to do as to where they have found a supply of superfit midget people. And they’d be wise to get their ducks in a row before someone comes along with an age test a bit more scientific that looking at a passport. If we’re willing to test people for gender how about we test them for age? Either that or just scrap the age requirments.

The above information is about a diver, someone who doesn’t need to meet the age requirement so I can’t see a reason for fudging the age description but the question still stands, what’s going on when someone is so far away from normal and the olympics is about normal people doing their best.


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