The International Olympic Committee has ordered China to return the women’s team bronze that they were awarded at the 2000 Sydney Games, based on evidence that Dong Fangxiao was only 14-years-old.
The team medal will go to its rightful owners, Team USA. Former gymnast Dominique Dawes said, “Justice prevailed. My teammates are very well-deserving of the bronze medal, and I’m sure each and every one of us will be thrilled. We will cherish it.”
The team also includes Amy Chow, Jamie Dantzscher, Kristin Maloney, Elise Ray and Tasha Schwikert. The young women left empty-handed from Sydney, four years after winning gold in Atlanta. Schwikert said, “It’s going to be nice to say, ‘We did get a medal. We got the bronze in Sydney.'”
The issue drew worldwide attention at the 2008 Beijing Games when the Chinese women won the gold medal and officials suspected that some of the girls were younger than 16. An investigation was launched and the IOC was able to make the discovery about Dong, who was working as a national technical official. Her documents listed her birthday as Jan. 23, 1986, which would have made her too young to compete in 2000.
International Gymnastics Federation president Bruno Grandi said in a statement: “Respecting the minimum age of our gymnasts remains a priority and I am committed to safeguarding the health of our athletes.”
Check out the photos and vintage video showing the 2000 Sydney Women’s Gymnastics Team awards ceremony, and an interview with Team USA conducted by Ann Currie below:
Photos: Carrie Devorah – WENN