The Chinese Olympic Gymnasts Are Pretty Young

by Chris Tognotti

The women's gymnastics team all-around final at the Rio Olympics took place on Tuesday, with those ever-prized gold medals on the line. Heading into the competition, the American team was considered an overwhelming favorite to claim the top prize, but Team China was also considered one of the world's best. Considering some of the controversies that have followed China's Olympic gymnastics teams in the recent past, you might find yourself wondering how old the Chinese gymnasts are this time around.

(Update: The U.S. women's gymnastics team won gold in the team all-around on Tuesday afternoon, while Team China took the bronze.)

The rules stipulate that anyone participating in the Olympics as a gymnast must be at least 16 years old, or must at least turn 16 in the same calendar year in which the games are held. Until the early 1980s, the age limit was even lower — back then, you only needed to be 14 to participate, The Guardian reported.

Back in 2010, bronze medalist Dong Fangxiao of the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia was officially stripped of the prize, after it was discovered that she was only 14 during the Games. Her medal ultimately went to the American team instead, which delighted members of the USA team who'd felt cheated by what happened and stirred up discord among the Chinese public.

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

That's not the only time China's faced allegations of trying to skirt the IOC's age requirements, either. Suspicions and accusations were flying during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, too. So with the recent spate of controversies, maybe you feel a little suspicious about something happening again in 2016. If you're wondering what the official Team China women's gymnastics roster has listed, however, here's what's been published:

  • Shang Chunsong, 20
  • Mao Yi, 19
  • Tan Jixian, 19
  • Fan Yilin, 16
  • Wang Yan, 16
David Ramos/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

Assuming these listed ages are accurate, they would still make Team China a distinctly younger squad than the American team this year. Team USA boasts returning Olympians Aly Raisman, 22, and Gabby Douglas, 20, alongside newcomers Simone Biles, 19, Madison Kocian, 19, and Laurie Hernandez, 16. In short, the U.S. team is a relatively mature bunch.

The Chinese team's ages also stand out when compared to the Russian women's gymnastics team, which was sitting in third place when Tuesday's final began. The Russian team consists of 21-year-old Aliya Mustafina, 21-year-old Maria Paseka, 18-year-old Daria Spiridonova, 17-year-old Seda Tutkhalyan, and 16-year-old Angelina Melnikova.


By way of comparison, the Chinese team has two competitors who are right at the minimum age requirement of 16. The Russian and American teams, on the other hand, have two between them — Melnikova and Hernandez, respectively. The Chinese team also only has one member at or above the age of 20, while the American and Russian teams have four combined.

Of course, a mere rundown of the gymnasts' ages won't tell you much about how the actual competition is going to unfold. If you want to see how these teams actually perform when the pressure is on, you'll want to follow along as the finals happen.