Up until 2008 gymnasts that were to turn 16 in the Olympic year were allowed to compete at senior international competitions the year prior, mainly because at the time the only way to qualify to the Olympics was through the World Championships that were held the year prior. Rules changed for the 2009-2012 quadrenium, a second qualifying stage was instated through the Test Event and gymnasts turning 16 in the Olympic year now must wait until the beginning of the Olympic year to enter senior competitions.
If the current age rules had been instated a decade earlier what gymnasts would not have been world individual medalists because they wouldn’t have been age-eligible to compete at the World Championships the year before the Olympics?
OLGA ROSCHUPKINA (UKR) – March 26, 1984
BEAM BRONZE (1999 World Championships)
Olga was part of the Ukrainian team in Sydney and she qualified to the uneven bars final where she placed 6th. Olga was an experienced gymnast due to the fact that she had won bronze on beam and placed fourth with her team at the 1999 World Championships.
CARLY PATTERSON (USA) – February 4th, 1988.
ALL AROUND SILVER (2003 World Championships)
The 2003 World All-Around Silver Medalist and future Olympic All-Around Champion would not have had the enormous experience of competing in the all-around final in home soil with the current age limitations. The 2003 World Championships were the only Worlds Carly Patterson attended.
CHELLSIE MEMMEL (USA) – June 23rd, 1988
UNEVEN BARS GOLD (2003 World Championships)
There would have been no tie for the Uneven Bars title between Hollie Viseand Chellise Memmel at the 2003 World Championships because Memmel would have not been able to participate.
Out of 6 gymnasts that formed the 2003 U.S World Team 2 (Memmel and Patterson) would not have attended with the new age rules. In 2003 the United States won its first World Team Title.
KANG YUN MI (PRK) – February 11th, 1988
VAULT SILVER (2003 World Championships)
Again there would have been no tie for the vault silver between Kang Yun Mi and Elena Zamolodchikova because the North Korean gymnast would not have been present at the 2003 World Championships.
Kang Yun Mi also advanced to the Olympic vault final in Athens where she finished 5th. Back in 2003 she was one of the very few gymnasts to compete an Amanar vault.
SHAWN JOHNSON (USA) – January 19th, 1992
ALL-AROUND GOLD (2007 World Championships)
The 2007 World Championships would have had another World All-Around Champion since Shawn Johnson would have been age ineligible to attend the competition. The 2007 Worlds were the only World Championships Shawn Johnson attended.
LI SHANSHAN (CHN) – February 22nd, 1992
BEAM SILVER (2007 World Championships)
There would have been no tie between Steliana Nistor and Li Shanshan for the beam silver since Li Shanshan would not have been present at the 2007 World Championships. Like Shawn Johnson the only World Championships Li Shanshan attended were the 2007 Worlds.
YANG YILIN (CHN) – August 26, 1992
UNEVEN BARS BRONZE (2007 World Championships)
The 2007 World Championships were without doubt a great experience for the young Yang Yilin since she was the bronze medalist in a highly competitive world bars final. She was able to repeat the result at the 2008 Olympics and attended two more World Championships: 2009 and 2010.
KSENIA SEMENOVA (RUS) – October 20nd, 1992
UNEVEN BARS GOLD (2007 World Championships)
Most likely Anastasia Liukin would have won gold on Uneven Bars if the current age rules were to have been applied back in 2007 since Ksenia Semenova would have been absent from that competition. Her absence would have also meant the Russian team would have left empty-handed since Ksenia’s gold was the only medal the Russian team won at the 2007 World Championships.
With the 2007 World Championships taking place in September and Ksenia being born in October, she was the last gymnast ever to win a World Title while aged 14. Ksenia’s last international participation was at the 2010 World Team Final that took place the day she turned 18 years old, October 20th 2010.
After analyzing who would have been absent from major international competition if the current age rules had been applied earlier now let’s take a look to the 2012 and 2016 Olympians that would have benefitted from the old age rules.
KYLA ROSS (USA) – October 24th, 1996
The youngest member of the U.S. Team at the 2012 Olympic Games missed out on the opportunity of attending the 2011 World Championships but was able to attend the 2013 and 2014 World Championships; she won a total of 5 World Medals. Kyla officially retired in early 2016.
ANASTASIA GRISHINA (RUS) – January 16th, 1996
Being born in early January, Anastasia Grishina barely missed out on the opportunity of attending the 2011 World Championships. The experience of the World Championships might have been positive for her as she had a rather unfortunate participation at the 2012 Olympics and never got the chance to attend a World Championships. Back issues halted her in 2013 and knee injuries kept her out of contention in 2014 and 2015. In 2016 she chose a very different life road by getting married and welcoming her first child.
LARISSA IORDACHE (ROU) – June 19th, 1996
The Romanian team would have been delighted with the previous age rules as they would have allowed their super star Larissa Iordache to participate. This would have been very beneficial particularly because Romania walked out empty handed from the 2011 World Championships.
Larissa has been the rock that has kept the struggling Romanian program in the international scene as she has been Romania’s only medallist at the last three World Championships. Currently she is preparing to represent Romania at home-soil for the 2017 Europeans that are set to take place in Cluj-Napoca.
ANGELINA MELNIKOVA (RUS) – July 18th, 2000
The Russian team would have certainly benefited a great deal from the former age rules since they would have allowed Angelina Melnikova to be part of the 2015 World Team and her presence could have definitely changed the outcome of the team competition where Russia finished in fourth place by only 0.416 but after counting four falls. Angelina who was the youngest member of the Rio 2016 team is now expected to be one of the leaders of the Russian program in the upcoming years.
LAUREN HERNÁNDEZ (USA) – June 9th, 2000
Not being able to participate at the 2015 World Championships only made Lauren’s Olympic selection more impressive as the United States is the country with the most depth in the world meaning one mistake is enough to take a gymnast out of consideration. With few chances to prove herself as a senior Lauren Hernández made the Olympic team where she performed like a veteran gymnast and was the youngest Olympic Individual medalist with her silver on beam. Worlds are not likely in Lauren’s plans anytime soon as she is currently participating in Dancing With Stars.