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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Favorite bar routines: Kim Gwang Suk

I was fortunate enough to have a front row seat in the crowd for this routine, which won the 1991 World Championships. A couple of things make it interesting. A new skill is named after the gymnast that first performs it in competition, so the second release move you see here is named for Kim Gwang Suk. I'm not sure I've seen more than one or 2 other people compete that skill since 1991 (and in fact she was competing it as early as 1989). AND she's doing it in connection with her first release move, a Tkatchev (also called a reverse hecht).

But what makes Kim Gwang Suk particularly interesting is the age controversy surrounding her. Check out the stats at the beginning of the routine...age 16, 4'4" and 60 lbs. (And here's a tangent--broadcasters no longer show weights of gymnasts on TV--so as not to glorify the abnormally small girls, I think?) Also note--she's missing a front tooth. The coaches claimed she lost the tooth in an accident in practice. That may be true, but what was not true was North Korea's claim that she was 15 years old... for 3 consecutive years.

The North Koreans have been banned on and off from international competition because of age falsification issues. Does Kim look 16 in this clip from 1991? You can also see videos of her in 1989 where she doesn't look 14, and 1987, where she doesn't look 12. Could she possibly be doing these skills at 9 or 10? It seems impossible....but you never know with the North Koreans. On top of her age issues, in all likelihood she was overtrained and undernourished.

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