BEIJING (AFP) — The US women's gymnastics team threw down the gauntlet to China Thursday, baiting their rivals over allegations some of its members are underage and declaring themselves intent on claiming Olympic gold.
The US beat China by less than a point at last year's world championships and the host nation wants to exact revenge before fervent home support in Beijing.
There have allegations China's desire for gold is so strong that it has entered three underage gymnasts in its women's team prompting US team coordinator Martha Karolyi to say her charges were ready for whatever China threw at them.
"We are definitely not worrying about what is not under our control," she told reporters.
"What is under our control is our preparation and we have prepared strongly. We're ready to face any team, underage or overage."
Liang Qiao, the Chinese-born coach of US star Shawn Johnson, said the US team could repeat its world championship win over his former compatriots.
"The Chinese women's team is very strong but we won at the world championships last year and we've planned for this for an entire year -- I think we are up to the challenge," he said.
Liang said China's home ground advantage many be overstated.
"It can be a big advantage but on the other hand there's a lot more pressure on the Chinese team," he said.
The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) rules state that had to turn 16 during an Olympic year to compete at the Games but The New York Times reported last month that online records showed China team members He Kexin and Jiang Yuyuan may be only 14.
The age of a third athlete, Yang Yilin, then came into question when the state-run China Central Television (CCTV) website posted a profile indicating she too was 14.
China has denied anything is out of order, saying ID and legal documents show He and Jiang meet the minimum age requirement, while also dismissing the CCTV profile as simply wrong.
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