By Robert Tong, USA TODAY
Dong Fangxiao’s mother gave an interview some years ago and offered some interesting perspectives regarding the age falsification her daughter was involved in. 

She claimed that Dong Fangxiao was born in 1983, and her age was changed 3 years younger later in 2002 during a high-risk surgery. “At that time,  Fangxiao was confined to bed for 3 years after the surgery. We were afraid that after that, it would become harder for her to find a job, so some people suggested that we should change her age to make up for the years she was in bed.”

Her mother also mentioned that athletes have to pass a bone age test in order to compete. “Fangxiao has (her age on) her identity card and other supportive documents also,” she said. 

In fact, Dong Fangxiao’s began developing leg pains since 1998, when she became one of the key members for the national team. She had been receiving painkilling injections since that year. Nevertheless, she continued her training since the team did not realize it could be a huge injury.

It was later revealed in 2001 that she suffered terminal stage necrosis at her left femor due to over training. At that time, her leg was swollen and she could not walk properly.After retirement, she had received 8 surgeries. She then went on to learn French and became a judge at international level. Before her Olympic medal was stripped off, she was studying in New Zealand with her boyfriend, and coached children’s gymnastics part-time. 

After the 2008 Beijing Olympics, she was discovered that her age in the official profile did not match her competing age during the 2000 Sydney Olympics. To make matter worse, her provincial team coach died at the same time, and her hopes of getting a job at her provincial team vanished. She could only work as a part-time for a low income. According her mother, there was “no one backing her up”. 

Dong Fangxiao started gymnastics at 4. She was born into an underprivileged family, and her parents had high hopes for her gymnastics career. Wang Chaqun, the head coach of the Chinese WAG team, recalled that Dong Fangxiao “entered the gym at 8 a.m. and came out at 8 p.m. every day, and for every single move, she practiced more than a hundred times.” 

Regarding the age scandal, the Chinese National Team released a statement that “Age Falsification is an individual problem.” Dong Fangxiao has yet to give her opinion on this issue. 

Written by Valerie-Valya Theodora Ko
Axact

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