• Bunce on Olympics

Hang your head in shame, John Leonard

Steve Bunce July 31, 2012
Ye Shiwen should be celebrated and not criticised © PA Photos

Michael Phelps was 15 when he set records, Ian Thorpe was the same age when he was taking five seconds off records and Nadia Comaneci was 14 when she won three gold medals in 1976.

Medal Table

So far in London teenagers have been making headlines and I don't mean the lively lads at Mile End tube trading flags, pins and just about anything that is legal. There seems to be an endless list of teenagers winning or placing in major sports and their tearful celebrations are addictive. The boys at Mile End report selling more tissues than brollies.

Little Tom Daley with a nation's expectation on his shoulders failed, which at 18 in the world of diving, is to be expected. It's not the rowing, it's not one of the great British sports. He looked like a child as he fought back tears and surely that is just too much for a kid and at 18, and after a life in dorms and tracksuits and pools, he is still a child.

The kids are veterans, old in many ways and childish in so many other simple pursuits. The question of innocence emerged yesterday when a 16-year-old girl from China won in the pool and a seasoned and senior American swimming official, John Leonard, launched an attack. The big mouth is not, I need to add, part of the American delegation here in London.

"Disturbing," he said of an athlete who has gone through all of the doping protocols and is clean. It was an outrageous attack, worthy of a nasty teenager on one of the social networks. He could and probably should lose his job and all attempts at a U-turn should be laughed at.

In Olympic history there are 10 and 12 year olds with medals of all colours and I have no problem with kids taking part if they are good enough; parents reading this will know that teenagers are stupid enough to try anything. I'm still looking for a picture of ten-year-old Dimitros Loundras and his bronze medal for team gymnastics from Athens in 1896. We had chimney sweeps, they had boys on the rings.

Ye Shiwen needs to be protected from the outrageous verbal assault, an assault that conjures up some of the finest stand-offs from the Cold War heyday of the Olympics. Those were glorious days of lunatic accusations; men were called women and women were called men and the fencers made it look very real. It was crazily corrupt and there were victims.

The attack on the little Chinese girl was just hateful.

Some of the Chinese athletes lack a bit of emotion and for that they appear to be easy game for rumours and suggestions. I hope the fella from USA swimming has no ghosts in his closet. Hang your head in shame.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Steve Bunce Close
Steve Bunce has been ringside in Las Vegas over 50 times, he has been at five Olympics and has been writing about boxing for over 25 years for a variety of national newspapers in Britain, including four which folded! It is possible that his face and voice have appeared on over 60 channels worldwide in a variety of languages - his first novel The Fixer was published in 2010 to no acclaim; amazingly it has been shortlisted for Sports Book of the Year.