The 2012 Asian Championships are being held this week and the big story is the return of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) to International Competition. In 2010, The FIG gave North Korea a two-year international suspension from competition for age falsification after it was discovered that gymnast Hong Su Jong had listed three different birth-dates between 2003 and 2010. When registering for the 2010 World Championships Hong Su Jong claimed she was born in 1989. Interesting claim because at the 2004 Athen Olympics and 2006 World Championships, Jong listed 1985, and at the 2007 World Championships Jong registered birth year was 1986. FIG rules state that a gymnast must turn at least sixteen during an Olympic calendar year to be considered age eligible. If Hong’s birthdate was really in 1989, then she was too young to compete at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
This was not the first time that North Korea was punished for age falsification in gymnastics. Three years in a row, 1991 World Champion and 1992 Olympian, Kim Gwang Suk was listed as fifteen for international competitions. In response, the FIG banned North Korea from the 1993 World Championships. Suk’s age had been questioned multiple times since the gymnast competed at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics missing her front teeth. 1992 Olympic Coach for Team USA, Bela Karolyi, said that the 4’4” tall gymnasts looked closer to 11 than her registered age of 17.
The Men’s competition 2012 Asian Games was dominated by the Chinese who won the team competition by nearly 15 points. The second place Japanese team narrowly beat North Korea by a .01 and South Korea followed in a very close fourth. China also won the All-Around title with Liu Rongbing.
It is important to note that North Korean Ri Se Gwang did not return quietly as he performed his his incredibly difficult vaults.
The women’s side of the competition was also dominated by the Chinese as the women won the team title by almost ten points. China also won the women’s all-around title with Zheng Siqi. 2008 Olympic vault champion, Hong Un Jong, older sister or twin sister to the ageless Hong Su Jong, returned to competition with a huge 15.300 on vault.