I’ve just started my journey, says China’s Wang Yan as the youngster finishes out of the medals in the women’s vault

The gymnast, the youngest athlete in the vault finals at the age of 16, lost but is honoured to have made it so far at the Rio Olympics

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 August, 2016, 9:19am
UPDATED : Monday, 15 August, 2016, 11:31pm

Chinese gymnast Wang Yan, the youngest athlete in the vault finals at the age of 16, lost but was honoured to make it so far at the Rio Olympics.

Wang struck up a bright smile on her face after the game on the ninth day of the Olympics after finishing at the fifth place – the kind of smile a girl of her age should have.

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While other 16-year-old girls in China and the rest of the world were still happily going to school and playing hide-and-seek in playgrounds, Wang was already competing with the best gymnastics in the world at the Olympics.

Asked if she has ever thought about giving up gymnastics and going to school like other children do, the answer was simply “no”.

“No. I have already started my journey in gymnastics and I will definitely keep going and keep training. I am not going to think about school. Perhaps I will think about that when I retire,” Wang said.

“I felt quite good today. Everyone here are the best gymnasts in the world. I can’t compete with them. I am not as strong as they are.”

The humble athlete said she has never thought about winning in this event.

“I have never thought about that. I gave myself a score of 90. I am satisfied with my performance today,” she added.

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The Chinese gymnast scored 14.999. The US’s Simone Biles, 19, clinched gold with 15.966. That was her third Olympic gold in Rio.

Russia’s Maria Paseka, 21, took silver with a score of 15.253, while Switzerland’s Giulia Steingruber, 22, won bronze with a score of 15.216.

The oldest gymnast at the finals was Uzbekistan’s Oksana Sovitina, at the age of 41. She finished in seventh place with a score of 14.833.

Biles has a lot of praise for Sovitina.

“It’s amazing that she is still going and she is still strong at what she does. I can’t do that at 41. No,” Biles said.

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Biles’ secret to victory was just to enjoy the games.

“If you’re having fun, I think that’s when you do best. I think that would be helpful,” she added.

Questions had earlier been raised over whether China’s gymnasts were old enough to compete in the international games.

At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Chinese gymnasts were involved in an underage scandal when their women’s team lifted the gold medal. It was reported that one member, He Kexin, was 14 at the time.

The International Gymnastics Federation launched an investigation, but could not find any evidence of cheating.

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However, it did find a member of the China team at the 2000 Sydney Olympics had failed to meet the age criteria and China were stripped of their bronze medal