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I Am 14 Going On 16, Innocent and Naive

July 28th, 2008 | 0 comments | Posted by Jen
Chinese gymnast He Kexin


Thanks in large part to our Hardass Parents, Asians looove a headstart. I was potty-trained and walking at 11 months and talking in complete sentences by age 2 (I also, apparently, had a serious boyfriend in preschool); I learned to add and subtract at 3 and picked up geometry and algebra around 8 or 9. I thought I was pretty hot shit in the child development-department until I met Diana, who learned to read at 2, started kindergarten at 3, graduated high school at 16, and had a real job by age 20. (Bitch!)

I was reminded of the value Asians place on precociousness when I read today that two female Chinese gymnasts may be too young to compete in the Olympics (the minimum age is 16). Chinese officials were quick to say that the gymnasts, He Kexin and Jiang Yuyuan, are both 16, despite online records that list their age as 14. Even more curious is the fact that China’s government-run newspaper, the China Daily, ran a story in May heralding the arrival of “14-year-old newcomer” He Kexin, a gold medal favorite in the uneven bars.

But it was only after reading He’s Wikipedia page, which says that the eensy-beensy gymnast:

  • Has already won two World Cup titles on the uneven bars this year
  • Is “one of the few gymnasts in the world to score over 17.00 under the current Code of Points”
  • Has one of the highest difficulty scores in the world in the uneven bars

…that I started to wonder. Given that most gymnasts are considered “old” at 18 and younger girls tend to compete better and do the most outrageous tricks because they have no sense of failure or mortality (Nadia Comaneci was 14 when she scored the first perfect 10 at the ’76 Games), I gotta think that THOSE GIRLS ARE SO TOTALLY NOT 16. At some point, the ambivalence creeps in, you don’t think you’re such hot shit anymore, and, of course, you want to get laid. Maybe that explains why I was better at geometry at 8 than I was at 14?

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