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A variety of screenshots provided by Stryde Hax, allegedly proving gymast He Kexin to be two years underage to participate in the 2008 Olympics.  (Source: Stryde Hax)
Proving once again that search engines can be some of the greatest hacking tools on the internet

A clever search engine hacker says he’s located primary source documents, provided by the Chinese government, that contain proof of an age-related cover-up on behalf of the Chinese women’s gymnastics team.

Working under the pseudonym “Stryde Hax” and posting to his blog, he says he was able to download spreadsheets previously deleted by the Chinese government by pulling up a cached copy stored on Chinese search-engine Baidu.

Stryde’s Blogger profile describes him as a consultant for security firm Intrepidus Group, and says he spends his spare time “[finding] things on web servers that were never meant to be found.”

His efforts focused specifically on gold-medal winning gymnast He Kexin, whose age is widely reported to be 16 years old. He’s passport lists her date of birth to be January 1, 1992 – however reports from a variety of news sources, including Chinese English-language newspaper China Daily, previously showed her birthday to be January 1, 1994, placing her age at a disqualifying 14 years old. (Many of the original reports allegedly disappeared soon after the scandal initially broke out.)

In order to participate, Olympic gymnasts must be at least 16 years old. The sport has a long history of contestants misrepresenting their age in order to participate in senior-level competitions.

Stryde says the documents he located were originally stored on web servers for the General Administration of Sport of China, however they appear to have been removed after a similar – largely unnoticed – story ran last July in the New York Times. Running a specially constructed search query against Google yielded a handful of results that ended up going nowhere, and Google’s cached data revealed what appeared to him as doctored or missing information. Running the same query against Baidu, however, netted another set of results that, like Google, went nowhere – but unlike Google, contained cached information clearly showing He with a birthday of January 1, 1994.

In response to his calls for urgency – not to mention front page exposure on Slashdot and Digg – Stryde says he’s been overwhelmed with support from readers, many who decided to mirror the spreadsheets on their own before they disappeared off of the web completely.

Of particular interest is a machine-translated version of his findings, which clearly state:

799, BB He Kexin CC female AA 1994.1.01 Beijing and
Beijing Beijing Municipal Sports Bureau, First Note

Regardless of the authenticity of Stryde’s findings – a handful of commenters dispute his claims – it’s possible that should his evidence either prove to be conclusive, or lead to the introduction of even more definitive evidence, then the 2008 Chinese gymnastics scandal could be the next in line to be felled by a relatively new phenomenon called “crowdsourcing,” or tapping into the collective knowledge of the internet. A similar phenomenon may have hastened the retirement of CBS news anchor Dan Rather, who once presented evidence of a story on air that the blogosphere later proved to be false.

At the time of this writing, the cached documents still appear to be online at Baidu.

Update 08/21/2008: Stryde's findings appear to have been the catalyst for a newly-opened, official IOC investigation into He Kexin's age.

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RE: Waits for it...
By kelmon on 8/21/2008 10:07:14 AM , Rating: 0
Agreed. I have no issue with this because age isn't a factor in other events. The UK has a 14-year old diver and I believe that there is a girl aged about 13 participating in the archery (I think she was from Greece). Personally I think it smacks of sour grapes but I will agree that fiddling an athlete's age details is not good for the event or the sport.

RE: Waits for it...
By akugami on 8/21/2008 10:31:36 AM , Rating: 2
Archery and diving is nowhere near as physically demanding as gymnastics.

RE: Waits for it...
By emboss on 8/21/2008 12:13:05 PM , Rating: 2
You'd actually be surprised about platform diving. At a competitive level, it actually puts pretty significant strains on your body, both from the movements while spinning and from hitting water from 10 metres up. There's only so many times your wrists and shoulders can take the impact until they give out.

RE: Waits for it...
By Souka on 8/21/2008 2:05:08 PM , Rating: 2
Actually...the Chineese platform divers are typically failed Gymnasts...

This came from CBC coverage of the platform divers when they were talking abotu their training background. Something like "Typically these Chinesse divers are gymnasts that found platform diving a better fit".

"found.." "Better fit"... aka, failed Gymnasts

My $.02

RE: Waits for it...
By emboss on 8/21/2008 3:57:21 PM , Rating: 2
"Failed" is probably being a bit harsh. Sort of like calling a 100 m runner a failed 400 m runner. While there are similarities, and skills do transfer somewhat between them, you tend to be intrinsically suited more for one than the other. Most gymnastic disciplines require good anaerobic endurance, whereas diving focuses more on pure power (since you only need to exert yourself for a couple of seconds).

Also, quite a few gymnasts take up diving after suffering lower-body injuries that prevent them from continuing with gymnastics. By moving over to diving, they can work on wrecking their upper body to match :)

Finally, kids are typically introduced to gymnastics at a younger age than diving (not least because most children do not have sufficient elbow development to dive safely under the age of 7 or so), so quite often will have been doing gymnastics before they enter diving.

RE: Waits for it...
By Aloonatic on 8/21/2008 11:00:11 AM , Rating: 3
Rules is rules though, and I doubt that they were invented in case they may annoy the Chinese.

Gymnastics has a less than glorious history when it comes to the treatment of the younger female gymnasts, particularly by the Easter Block countries.

I believe the age limit is essentially a measure intended to protect the Girls both above and bellow 14 years of age.

Comparing the physical impact of gymnastics to archery or even diving isn't really at all fair. A gymnast's body is pushed to the limits and some very bad things can happen. There's plenty of clips on youtube of girls (and boys) landing on their heads and such as they push themselves to the limit when they try to compete.

Sure, when they train they are at risk of injuring themselves but in a big competition the temptation for a girl to push her self too far, purely on the say so of her coach without having the experience of her own body and limits is v dangerous.

One of the other big problems that sport used to have was coaches doping up their girl gymnasts with drugs and hormones to stop their bodies maturing as (as stated above) a girls smaller body is a positive advantage.

If the rules make it so that they are expected to have a fairly mature body this is essentially pointless.

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