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Underage in gymnastics -- what's the benefit?

 
 
Thomas
 
Reply Wed 13 Aug, 2008 08:00 am
Yesterday, I was wondering about something as I watched the Chinese gymnasts beat the Americans in the Olympic team competition. It wasn't, "are the Chinese underage or aren't they?" They obviously are. It's something else I don't understand: How does a female gymnast obtain an advantage by being underage?

It doesn't seem to be the mechanics of the sport, the muscle-force-to-weight ratio or some such. If it was that, we'd see underage gymnasts on the men's teams, too -- and we don't.

It also doesn't seem to be, on the face of it, the ability to execute acrobatic tricks. The American team and the Chinese seemed about equally amazing in their control of their bodies.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I can't believe it's the aesthetics. Maybe this is just me turning into a dirty old man, but I'm getting much more aesthetic pleasure out of watching a young woman than a kid working magic with her body. I much prefer someone with a woman's face -- not to mention breasts, a waist, and hips. Someone who's aware she's discreetly turning on at least half of her audience when she does these little wiggles and poses between the hard, athletic exercises. (The Chinese girls, brilliant in their athletics, seemed understandably unaware of their not-yet-existent sex appeal; they just went through the motions in the "easy" wiggling and posing parts.)

But there must be some advantage China must have gotten out of sending in girl instead of women. So what else could it be? What is the benefit to a gymnast of being underage?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 5 • Views: 7,146 • Replies: 41

 
DrewDad
 
  3  
Reply Wed 13 Aug, 2008 08:02 am
1. The power-to-weight ratio is different for men and women.
2. A lot of the men's competition is based on upper-body strength.
3. Balance and accuracy are very important, which means get 'em competing before their bodies start to change.
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FreeDuck
 
  2  
Reply Wed 13 Aug, 2008 08:03 am
I'm going to hazard a guess and say puberty. The hormones of a woman who has gone completely through puberty change her body mass and loosen her ligaments. Hips and boobs get in the way. You need more muscle mass to overcome these things. Then there is the clear size advantage.
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Region Philbis
 
  3  
Reply Wed 13 Aug, 2008 08:04 am

perhaps the younger they are, the less fearful of injury they are.

if they're not afraid of getting hurt, they might try things older gymnasts wouldn't dare...
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sozobe
 
  2  
Reply Wed 13 Aug, 2008 08:05 am
I think breasts, a waist, and hips are the main thing here (and also why the men don't have an equivalent thing going).

For one thing, gymnasts start young and so they have to do a lot of adjustments to what they're used to when secondary sex characteristics start appearing.

For another, those secondary sex characteristics (that is NOT shorter than just saying breasts, a waist, and hips) make some things more complicated I think. Gravity does different things, people get heavier (another difference is WHAT male and female gymnasts do -- females do more flippy-type stuff where having strong thighs and light everything else helps).
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Aug, 2008 08:06 am
Whew, didn't type fast enough!

No responses when I started (I say since it looks like I cribbed from DrewDad and FreeDuck).
0 Replies
 
FreeDuck
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Aug, 2008 08:08 am
No you expanded on what we said.

Also, I was thinking post-pubescent girls are more prone to injury, which soz kind of already said.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Aug, 2008 08:30 am
As Goethe, arguably Germany's most distinguished poet, put it so well: Die Botschaft hoer ich wohl / Allein mir fehlt der Glaube. ("The message I hear well / it's faith alone I lack")

I can follow you guys up to a point. I can see that Pamela Anderson would have a hard time doing world-class gymnastics. But your averge female athlete, who usually is fairly petite? Is gymnastics so different than, say, high diving? Do high divers need age limits? I don't think so.
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FreeDuck
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Aug, 2008 08:32 am
You don't see how boobs are not very aerodynamic?
0 Replies
 
Chai
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Aug, 2008 08:33 am
I heard this morning that the average Chinise female gymnist is something like 77 lbs.....the average American is something like 101 or 103 lbs.

A lot less weight to propel through the air.
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  2  
Reply Wed 13 Aug, 2008 08:34 am
I think they all have age limits, but only gymnasts have a combination of factors that mean that the younger athletes actually have advantages, so it becomes an issue. I think that in other sports, the over-16's handily beat the under-16's so the under-16's never show up in the Olympics.

I'll check.

Meanwhile, I was just reading about those Racer swimsuits that the US team is wearing (not just the US team though) and how they shave as much as 2% off the times -- wow, 2%! Big whoop! But at this level, it IS a big whoop, and I imagine it'd be the same with gazongas and such. Not a huge difference, but any little advantage helps.
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  2  
Reply Wed 13 Aug, 2008 08:38 am
OK, not everything has an age limit. Diving does, though (14).

Quote:
For U.S. Athletes:
There is no age limit to compete in the Olympics.

However, some sports do have age requirements for health and safety reasons. Competition rules of certain international federations cite age limits as follows:
- Bobsled (minimum of 14 years old)
- Boxing (17-32)
- Diving (minimum of 14)
- Equestrian (16 or older)
- Figure skating (15 by July 1 of previous year)
- Gymnastics (must be 16 years old in Olympic year)
- Judo (15 or older), luge (16 or older)
- Soccer (under 23)
- Team handball (over 18)
- Weightlifting (17 or older)
- Wrestling (must be at least 17 on day of Opening Ceremonies).

There are no general restrictions among the International Federations on an "upper" age limit.


The source given (it's a Yahoo Answers thing) doesn't still work though.
0 Replies
 
Chai
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Aug, 2008 08:41 am
oh yeah, they were also talking about those Speedo swimsuits....

2% is a HUGE deal, when people can set records and/or win by like 1/50th of a second.

In a race that would take 5 minutes, that's 6 whole seconds, an eternity.

As well as the swimsuits helping, the pools being used are deeper, by 50%.

The swimmers are not getting the same amount of shock waves from the bottom of the pool rising back up to them. By the time it rises to their depth, they are long gone.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Wed 13 Aug, 2008 08:45 am
FreeDuck wrote:
You don't see how boobs are not very aerodynamic?

I see that problem with Pamela Anderson boobs, yes. I don't see it with the boobs of your average female athlete. Not if it isn't a problem for high divers, which it doesn't seem to be. (Notice that high divers fly at higher speeds than gymnasts, so airodynamics should be more of a problem there.)

Since, sadly, A2K is one magnificent feminist short, let me throw in a feminist hypothesis: Judges in gymnastics are a clique of authoritarian old man locked into a reactionary patriarchic worldview. They want men to be men (meaning athletic) and women to be women. They consider it indecent for women to show off their sex appeal in public. So they can't have women who're athletic (to much like men), they can't have women who're sexy (indecent), the only thing that's left are women who're girly: Small, cute, boobless.
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  2  
Reply Wed 13 Aug, 2008 08:45 am
This doesn't directly answer the question, but provides some clues:

http://sports.espn.go.com/oly/summer08/gymnastics/columns/story?id=3527997

Quote:
Karolyi wants the requirement done away with because, he says, it robs athletes of some of their best years of competition,


Quote:
That is not surprising, given that the average size of the six-member Chinese team is 4-foot-9 and 77 pounds (that's 13 pounds lighter than Johnson, who is also 4-foot-9), and gymnast Deng Linlin doesn't even break the 70-pound mark.


(This is what Chai said, too -- same height, but much lighter.)

Quote:
The window in this sport is very small, and a 16-year-old age minimum closes the window for much of that time. Many gymnasts choose to leave the sport at 16 or 17, as the toll it takes on their bodies wears on them.


I think that's a big one. Gymnastics is a really punishing sport. Gymnasts are best at the point when they are strong enough to do the toughest stuff, but still "fresh" -- haven't gone through as much punishment as older gymnasts.

I don't know whether the age limit is a good idea or not (I think it was maybe intended to reduce the punishment for very young girls, but doesn't seem to have worked if so), but that seems to be more about the benefits as per the question that was asked here.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Aug, 2008 08:47 am
Wow, this thread is moving fast!

I need to get back to work for now -- apologies to everyone I haven't responded to yet! I'll be back.
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  3  
Reply Wed 13 Aug, 2008 08:48 am
Thomas wrote:
Since, sadly, A2K is one magnificent feminist short, let me throw in a feminist hypothesis: Judges in gymnastics are a clique of authoritarian old man locked into a reactionary patriarchic worldview. They want men to be men (meaning athletic) and women to be women. They consider it indecent for women to show off their sex appeal in public. So they can't have women who're athletic (to much like men), they can't have women who're sexy (indecent), the only thing that's left are women who're girly: Small, cute, boobless.


I don't think so, actually. I think it has a lot more to do with the mechanics involved, and who can do what when.
0 Replies
 
Chai
 
  2  
Reply Wed 13 Aug, 2008 08:49 am
sozobe wrote:

(This is what Chai said, too -- same height, but much lighter.)




sorry - didn't see that Embarrassed


Gazongas.... Laughing
0 Replies
 
wandeljw
 
  2  
Reply Wed 13 Aug, 2008 08:56 am
My older daughter was active in gymnastics from age 4 to about age 20. When girls develop a more "womanly" figure, their center of gravity changes. Balance is important in gymnastics. A change in center of gravity upsets balance.
0 Replies
 
FreeDuck
 
  3  
Reply Wed 13 Aug, 2008 09:01 am
Thomas wrote:
I don't see it with the boobs of your average female athlete. Not if it isn't a problem for high divers, which it doesn't seem to be. (Notice that high divers fly at higher speeds than gymnasts, so airodynamics should be more of a problem there.)


Firstly, I think there a huge difference between diving and gymnastics. Divers land in the water and that's that. Gymnasts land on their feet -- sometimes after hauling the entire weight of their bodies over bars many times over using just their arms, sometimes landing on a balance beam several feet above the ground. Secondly, the age for diving is 14, so maybe it IS a problem for high divers.

I don't want to skip over what soz said about the swimsuits. I read about those a couple of months back -- amazing feat of design that is.
 

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