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CBA Players And Myth About The Ages Of Chinese Women Gymnasts

We stumbled upon an interesting post today on Asia Basket. Arthur Volbert, a US-based basketball writer who’s been closely following Chinese basketball, found that ages of 22 CBA players have been changed at the start of season 2008/2009. Below are some excerpts:

For Jiangsu, Tang Zhengdong went from being born in 1984 to 1982, confirming longtime rumors than he was older than his listed age. Others who became older were Han Shuo, Yi Li, Hu Xuefeng, Meng Da and Fang Hui.

For Liaoning, National Team member Zhang Qingpeng went from being born in 1985 to being born in 1981. Yang Ming, Gu Liye, Lu Wei and Liu Xiangtao also became older.

For other teams, there are the normal ups and downs with ages that happens in China. Guangdong’s Du Feng, a member of the National Team, went from being born in 1981 to being born in 1982. He keeps switching from one to the other and back, for some unfathomable reason.

Are we surprised by the news? Not at all. Your correspondent at CSR happened to be the schoolmate of two CBA players, one at Shanghai Sharks (上海大鲨鱼队) and the other at Bayi Rockets (八一火箭队), who both were officially listed last year by CBA as four years younger than we know. The two players are unfortunately not on Arthur’s list.

If someone digs, age-scandal stories of this kind can be found in almost every soon-to-be-nationalised football clubs in the country. The reason no one gives a hoot about it is because Chinese football has been lying there in a perennial slumber for so long. And oh, by Chinese football we mean men’s national football team. If you look at the performances of Chinese U17 or U20 men’s team you’ll find they’re actually not as bad as their elders, the U17 team even made it to the quarter-finals of FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2005 in Peru. This suggests that the pace, strength, stamina of these ‘boys’ outruned their foreign peers at the time. The bad news for Chinese footballers is their peers do grow, and we all know what can be expected later.

What Arthur found reminds us of the debate over ages in the Beijing Olympic Games, where two Chinese women gymnasts, He Kexin (何可欣) and Jiang Yuyuan (江钰源), were questioned whether their were below 16, the age women gymnasts are considered eligible to compete in the Games. “The girls are so little, so young,” said Mary Lou Retton, the Olympic all-around gymnastics champion at the 1984 Los Angeles Games to the New York Times when speaking of He. “They said she was 16, but I don’t know.”

Well, we don’t know either. But chances are the Chinese Gymnastics Association do, and they told media that the young ladies are old enough. We genuinely hope He and Jiang are not like those basketball and football players, otherwise they not only cheated their competitors but also themselves, and the gold medals they won will always remind them of what happened this summer.

Sources and Reads:

  • Asia Basket: 22 CBA Players Change Birth Years
  • The New York Times: Ruling Backs Chinese Gymnasts
  • Sports Law Blog: Yi Jianlian’s Age, NBA Employment, and Immigration Law

Photo: Baidu Baike


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4 Comments Post a comment
  1. stuart #

    It is common practise in China to lie about your age in order to gain an advantage, be it in the realm of sport, education, or whatever.

    Therefore, nothing in the linked to post comes as a surprise. I’ve read countless claims and denials relating to the ages of Chinese sports stars and athletes. For example, this excerpt from regarding Yi Jianlian:

    “Questions surround Yi’s correct birthdate, his official passport in China has him listed as being born on October 27, 1987, but it has been rumored that his date of birth may have been intentionally falsified so to be eligible in junior competitions. The estimates of his birthday are between 1984 to 1987.

    In 2004, he was listed as being born in 1984 in China’s Four Nation Tournament, although authorities said it was only a “typo”.

    A Houston Chronicle article reported that Yi told Shane Battier he was 24 in an exhibition game before the 2006 FIBA World Championship [which occurred in August, before his October birthday]. However, Yi later denied the allegations.”

    Findings, allegations, suspicions, evidence, denials, and ‘typos’. Sound familiar?

    China, it seems, would have us believe that He Kexin and Yi Jianlian are about the same age. Both have been party to a deception although the greater fault lies with those representing them.

    November 29, 2008
  2. Thanks very much, Stuart. We added the link in the post. :)

    November 30, 2008
  3. stuart #

    Sorry, David. Missed that!

    November 30, 2008
  4. b. cheng #

    This has been a big story in the Chinese papers, a lot of it has to do with the installing of a new system that enters the player’s national ID card into the system, instead of using documents or player surveys. Interesting stuff, but its not always about malice, birthdates, even for regular Chinese, are often times varied or not nailed down, with different dates on certificates, ID cards, etc.

    December 1, 2008

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