It certainly looks like the Olympic Games.
The opening ceremonies of the inaugural Youth Olympics, being held this week and next in Singapore, were full of the glitz and glamour of the “real” summer Olympics, with fireworks, a torchlighting ceremony and a stadium of screaming fans.
This quasi-Olympics has special meaning for gymnastics fans. The women competing here were all born in 1995, making them one year too young to compete at this year’s World Championships, although they will all be eligible for the London Olympics in two years.
The men, born in 1993 or 1994, are up-and-comers, but many of the best here will be waiting a few years to represent their countries because of the strength of their senior national teams.
It’s nice that these gymnasts get a special stage to showcase their talents, but, especially for the women, it’s a shame that they don’t have the opportunity to compete against everyone else.
Russian Viktoria Komova should win this one, barring a catastrophe like the one suffered by injured Jordyn Wieber at last week’s U.S. Championships. Also extremely impressive: Italian junior Carlotta Ferlito, the Netherlands’s Tess Moonen and China’s Tan Sixin.
Japan’s Yuya Kamoto, the leader after day one of the men’s competition, looks strong and prepared, even perhaps ready for a spot on the senior men’s national team. File the names of others – Britain’s Sam Oldham, Ukrainian Oleg Stepko, China’s Zhu Xiaodong, Russia’s Daniil Kazachkov – away for a couple of years. They’ll have their moments in senior international competition, too.
It’s harder to say whether the women will, though. Despite the maturity in artistry that the age rule has brought to the sport, there’s no getting away from the fact that the most difficult acrobatics is generally being done by younger teenagers. Shouldn’t they be allowed to compete it against the (generally) better presentation of their elders?
As long as the age rule that excludes anyone under 16 from a World or Olympic competition, a Youth Olympic Games or junior World Championships seems like a good idea. But why limit gymnastics to women who are 15 this year or men who were born between 1993 and 1994? That doesn’t seem in keeping with the Olympic spirit.
Then again, neither does excluding those who are under 16.
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