August 13th, 2008
06:16 PM ET

Erica’s News Note: Prepare for an eyebrow raise… or two

Program Note: Reports are surfacing saying some of the Chinese gymnasts may be under age... at least two of the Chinese gymnasts might in fact be 14, two years younger than the Olympic minimum. Watch Randi Kaye's report tonight on 360°.

Erica Hill
AC360° Correspondent

Today’s soldiers don’t travel lightly into war, but I never would have thought they, too, would be hit with these pricey new baggage fees at the airport. If I’m overloading on shoes, I get it - go ahead and charge me $50. But making troops traveling on orders pay $50 or more for the gear they need to stay alive seems wrong. Not all airlines are enforcing the new charges to military personnel, but the very idea of it really makes you think.
In case you haven’t noticed, I love watching the Olympics. Last night when I got home, it was all swimming and gymnastics – lots of joy and a little heartache, too. The strength, grace and determination of these young women – most of them in their teens – never fails to awe and inspire me.
The American women brought home silver. Gold went to the Chinese team, and along with it, a serving of controversy.

The Chinese women did perform better last night – even their music on the floor was more engaging. The issue is whether the team’s stars are really old enough to stand on the medals podium. Bela Karolyi commented to Bob Costas last night about these “14, 15 year old girls” when referring to China’s team. Karolyi – the man famous for coaching Mary Lou Retton to gold in 1984 – isn’t the only one who thinks the host nation’s math is a little fuzzy when it comes to their gold medal gymnasts. Sour grapes… or legitimate gripe?
Actions always speak louder than words, and sometimes those moves in the heat of the moment can also backfire – big time.

Let’s set the scene: college debate, low scores for one team, professor “drops trou” (as the kids say), and then comes… YouTube.

Filed under: Erica's News Note
soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Genny Krackau

    Hi, Erica,
    I am upset to hear about the airline baggage fees for our military service members. How stupid! President Bush and other US government officials need to put a stop to this immediately!

    August 14, 2008 at 10:02 am |
  2. Christine -Walnut, CA

    I can understand that some people might be concerned with the validity of the Chinese gymnasts age, but what some people don't understand is that not all 16 year olds look as mature as say, Miley Cyrus (or Ali Lohan) and especially in China where any girl taller than five feet six inches is considered a giant; the size of the gymnasts, while on the tiny side, would be considered average compared to most Chinese girls. And I highly doubt that China would take such a risk, they are trying to avoid any kind of scandal or mess-up during these Olympics, and underage competitors is probably the last thing they want to deal with.

    August 14, 2008 at 4:19 am |
  3. CaseyJ - Palm Springs, CA

    I've worked at a USO lounge. Many service people carry these incredibly large duffles. There are virtually no traditional suitcases. It is not uncommon for a traveling service person to have multiple duffles and they rarely can carry or manipulate what they have in one trip (going back to the luggage carousel at least once). It is clear most are frequently maxed out with finances, with limited cash on them and no credit cards. Who cares if they might get re-imbursed eventually? it's a huge hardship for many to be out-of-pocket for something as simple as a sandwich and a drink! Many hospitality-related businesses, attractions, etc., have special rates, deals, and offers for service people–WHY CAN'T AIRLINES GET WITH THE PROGRAM?

    August 13, 2008 at 11:21 pm |
  4. Nan

    I thought the Chinese gymnasts had the clearly superior performance last night and deserved to win. I am concerned, however, about the message the Chinese government is sending to their 1.3 billion citizens if in fact they are sanctioning cheating. If the allegations are true, the government, by stamping their passports is basically saying it's ok to lie to win the big prize. This fosters a culture where a lack of integrity is considered acceptable and has much broader long term implications.

    August 13, 2008 at 10:58 pm |
  5. BOB

    Nyan/ny Obama has left the vets under the same bridges ,his had the same amount of time to help them.

    August 13, 2008 at 10:54 pm |
  6. BOB

    China wants to Win,and they did and who are we to change it.

    August 13, 2008 at 10:46 pm |
  7. Don, WA

    Another professor speaking out of his...

    August 13, 2008 at 10:21 pm |
  8. Nyan/NY

    Thanks to Bush Military support and McSame senetorial stay in congress helping no one especialy the military.

    McCain only support Officers in the Military, the Grunts who actually do the work are just good for being on the front line and get covered with the flag when they are dead and gone.



    What part of patriotic is he. POWs and VETs are all over NYC under bridges and forgotten by McCain while he is still living it up.

    August 13, 2008 at 10:13 pm |
  9. Jim C Fresno


    Cheating in sports...what a novelty... Those Chinese kids no matter their age won on the floor where it mattered. If they are going to throw inuendo out they should be able to back it up and even Bela Karolyi can' do that. Give these kids the credit they deserve and if in the future we find out they were too young well prosecute the adults that made them lie but take nothing away from their performance. If they are too young it makes what they did all the more incredible.

    August 13, 2008 at 9:55 pm |
  10. Annie Kate


    I watched the gymnastics too and yes the Chinese girls seemed very young but some people just appear young – I hope China didn't hedge on their ages, that would be a shame to the Chinese girls who competed and did well and to their foreign competitors who also did well. The men's gymnastics about 2 nights ago really impressed me – the power and strength of those routines, most completed flawlessly, was simply amazing.

    The airlines ought to not charge military personnel for their luggage and they should give them a huge discount on their tickets. But we both know that probably won't happen. Our military has earned more respect than what this airline is showing.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    August 13, 2008 at 9:32 pm |
  11. Janna

    The airlines probably think that the military should pay. Of course, they cannot come out and say that and risk being unpatriotic. We're all aware that the industry is hurting, but it really is plain disgusting that the Air Transport Association won't step up to the plate here. The US military budget is beyond hurting and what is more important, really? I get it: business first....well, this is the real American way, isn't it?

    August 13, 2008 at 9:23 pm |
  12. Jim- Kearny, NJ

    Hi Erica!

    Bela Karolyi was being kind saying those girl were 14 or 15. A couple of them didn't look like they were 13 yet. I'm not surprised that the Chinese would use underage athletes, not with the lip-sync scandal, the fake fireworks scandal, Darfur, Sudan, 8 of the 10 most polluted cities in the world, Tibet, imprisonment of dissidents, the grisly fate of far too many Chinese baby girls, etc. on their record.
    Look at the medals that have been won so far. In events that are decided strictly by performance like swimming, bicycle racing, shooting etc., the Chinese have done almost nothing. In the events where there is judging of style points such as diving, gymnastics and the like, they're monsters. Coincidence? I think not.

    The Professor- I can only think of three words: check for meth.

    And yes, it's wrong for the airlines to charge military personnel extra for bringing their gear, but the Bush economy is hurting them pretty badly so they'll take the money wherever they can get it.

    Have a great night : )


    August 13, 2008 at 8:56 pm |
  13. Tracey - Boston

    OK, I saw the video. It seems to me that his shirt was to long to actually MOON anyone...but showed the frank and beans...which is worse.

    I saw the last few minutes of Lou Dobbs this evening, I usually don't watch his program too far to the left for me..anyway it sounds like he was taking credit for American Airlines dropping the baggage fee for our troops.

    August 13, 2008 at 8:52 pm |
  14. Michelle, Spring Valley, CA

    I can't belive that college professor in the video. I thought I had some professors in college that were "out there" since I was a theatre major, but I was wrong. They were tame. I love how it's a debate competition, and he's the one debating for eight minutes, about the debate, and mooning in front of his students. Nice.

    August 13, 2008 at 8:24 pm |
  15. Pam Prudil

    Hi Erica, I look forward to your blog everyday. I feel too that the Chinese gymnasts look a little young, but over the years, most of the female gymnasts look really young too. I don't know, maybe I'm just getting older...Pam Vancouver BC

    August 13, 2008 at 8:19 pm |
  16. Jan from Wood Dale IL

    You do realize that since the Chinese begin training these girls from the age of 3 to be gymnists that their bodies do not go through the normal hormonal changes of the average 16 year old girl. Once they stop the rigorous daily training their homones and metabolism will catch up with them. Have you seen the difference In USA's Dominque Dawes appearance since she retired from gymnastics?

    August 13, 2008 at 7:57 pm |
  17. Melissa, Los Angeles

    I'm so sleepy from staying up watching the swimming and gymnastics last night but well worth it! I'm a 36 year old Chinese woman who looks like I barely started puberty (I'm about as flat and straight as a boy!) and stand at not even 5' tall. I will never have the curvier American body like the American gymnasts and currently look like a heavier version of the Chinese gymnasts. Back when I was 16 though, I weighed under 100lbs. and looked like I was barely 13. People always mistaken me for younger than I look so I think the Chinese gymnasts are of age.

    I'm surprised you haven't addressed the issue with the basketball players from Spain and the racist ad they participated in. Even though they apologized and claimed they were "forced" by the sponsor to make the ad – I find it to be a hollow apology. The ad is so offensive to me that I refuse to watch the basketball portion of the Olympics and I will never watch a Laker game again since one of the players participated in the ad. They knew it was wrong and none of them stood up and said no to it.

    August 13, 2008 at 7:46 pm |
  18. Jolene

    Hi Erica!

    It's really a shame if the Chinese government is pushing underage girls to compete and covering it up with valid passports. There is really nothing that we can do about it now, IMO. We should have been questioning this months ago. Having this surface again now just makes the Americans look like we are bitter.

    Ok, last night it was the dude taking a bath at Burger King, now some Professor is mooning judges. The world has gone crazy!

    Jolene, St. Joseph, MI

    August 13, 2008 at 7:40 pm |
  19. Lilibeth

    By now, I think China can’t be trusted. They had that fake child singer, and now, these gymnasts are possibly underage. I like the Olympics, too, Erica, but I can’t seem to get myself to watch it. These allegations certainly don’t inspire me to do so. I’ll just keep watching 360. 🙂

    See you tonight.

    Edmonds, Washington

    August 13, 2008 at 7:33 pm |
  20. Megan Dresslar

    Helloooo Erica,
    Me too...... I agree with you......Last night, I watch Olympics to watch girls were there for gymnastics, and It was good job for USA got silver medal, also China girls already great job too. they are amazing girls too. I was so exciting for Michael Phelps, he is so fast and fast swimming. Congrats Michael Phelps!!!!!! he was so amazing race so quick what he is great athlete!!! I am proud of him. guess what??? he have most world record too......... I can't wait see him home after olympics..... After AC360 program and Live Blog, I will watch olympics tonight. I love this!!! Olympics is my favorite sports!!!! I will see you soon on Live Blog and program......
    See you soon!!!! 🙂
    Megan D....
    Shoreline, Wa

    August 13, 2008 at 7:33 pm |
  21. Lorie Ann, Buellton, California

    Hi Erica,
    I must admit , when I first saw the Chinese Gymnastic team, I thought some of them looked like they'd get the 12 or under admission price at any venue in the world. Lets hope it's on the up and up. They are extremely talented.
    Our troops should have zero baggage fees. Period. We all owe them so much.
    Gold, Silver or Bronze. No matter what our athletes get, I am proud to see them compete and give it their all. That's what the Olympics is really about.

    Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif.

    August 13, 2008 at 7:21 pm |
  22. CaseyJ - Palm Springs, CA

    When the moon hits your eye, like a big pizza pie, that's amore........(just add music to the lyrics). I can get more of a thrill looking at underwear ads. OK, big deal. Geez, if you blinked you would have missed it and the guys backside was two-thirds covered by his shirt tail. I wish I was there just for a laugh. If anyone is offended, just get over it and get on with your life. Send the guy home for a day (without pay) and move on.

    August 13, 2008 at 7:12 pm |
  23. Jim

    Hi Erica- The Other night You had a Picture of Bigfoot- Have you heard
    That Some Guy's actually have a body? go to searchingforbigfoot.com
    & Check it out.- If this thing is real THAT IS NEWS.

    August 13, 2008 at 7:10 pm |
  24. Larry

    The Chinese gymnastics team probably got obama's forged birth record as a favor when they were getting their's done

    August 13, 2008 at 6:58 pm |
  25. Tammy, Berwick, LA

    Does mooning count as part of academic freedom? Just joking. Outside of professors dating their students and going out to get drunk with students (or a combination of both), this has to be one of the most unprofessional things I've seen. Was the guy high? Does his EAP need to refer him for help? Does he need to be fired for his lack of judgement when acting in a professional capacity for the university? Or does he just need to grow up? Or is it all of the above? Unbelievable.

    The airlines need a grip on charging soldiers for their bags. Maybe the military should charge them for protecting their rights and freedoms (even the freedom to be morons for charging soldiers for luggage).

    Fake fireworks, lip synching Opening Ceremonies singer, underaged gymnasts... Anything to make the Chinese state look good I guess. But don't think other nations including ours wouldn't do it if they thought they could get away with it. Our athletes over the years have already proven they'll do anything to win (even if it means drug use). What's an underaged kid in comparison?

    August 13, 2008 at 6:53 pm |
  26. Fay, CA

    Ordinarily I have very little interest in sports, but I always make a point to watch the Olympics – it's really great to be able to watch athletes from all over the world competing against each other.

    The Beijing Olympics seem to be mired in controversy–the opening ceremonies with its supposedly faked fireworks and the bad move to replace one child performer with a "prettier" one and now the gymnastics issue–China is already under fire for its human rights violations and the additional problems they seem to be having with the Olympic events is certainly not doing much to improve their image.

    August 13, 2008 at 6:50 pm |
  27. Alexander

    Erica, I understand your view with why you enjoy watching the olympics. For me, though, it's not that they're young but rather that it's healthy competition. I actually don't care much for the summer games but I do enjoy, greatly, the winter games. Hope all is well, and look forward to seeing ya tonight.: )

    August 13, 2008 at 6:49 pm |
  28. Betty Ann, Nacogdoches,TX

    Hi Erica!
    I too love the olympics. Those Chinese girls are great but they look so darn young! They are little bitty kids!
    But, maybe they are old enough. One thing for sure, they are plenty talented enough and have worked very hard.
    What a great performance!
    Speaking of performance, I will see you tongiht!
    Thanks for the blog~

    August 13, 2008 at 6:33 pm |
  29. Heather,CA,US

    I know Erica,I saw for myself.There is no way in hell that those little girls are 16!Maybe between ten and twelve.There is that older looking taller girl who maybe looks close to her age of 20.The Chinese are lying! It's cheating.We all know it.But it would be rude to say something about it.

    Our soldiers unlike the rest of us civilians have to carry equipment with them in addition to personal belongings.I don't care what the airlines have to say,it's just wrong! We pack clothes etc for a trip,they pack equipment things that they would have to carry on their back and body.That should be free.

    August 13, 2008 at 6:30 pm |