"These little gymnasts have the heads of 10- or 11-year-olds," said forensic artist Lois Gibson, who studies the ratios of a face to determine a person's age. "All of those children I saw — their chins were really too small. But if you disregard that, they still have ears the size of someone who is maybe 10, 11 or 12."
Typically, half of a baby's face is from the eyes down to the chin, but as a person grows older the space elongates.
In addition to studying their face ratios, Gibson also looked at the gymnasts' irises. In a baby, the iris makes up 100 percent of the eye opening, but as you get older it drops to about 50 percent, egardless of nationality.
"These children even have larger iris ratios to the eye opening," Gibson said of the women on the team. "They appear to be far under 16."
The age limit of gymnasts was set during the late 1990s to protect the youngest athletes from overtraining and stunting their body growth.
But some coaches and gymnasts believe the limit should be lifted because gymnasts peak younger than other athletes.
"When I was 14 years old, obviously, I was able to flip around more and do things a little better [than] when I was older," said U.S. Olympic champion Dominique Moceanu, who was 14 years old when she nabbed a team gold medal at the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996.
That's the same age famed tumblers Nadia Comaneci and Kari Strug were when they struck Olympic gold.
"Put the best team out there, and let the U.S. and Chinese compete for Olympic gold," Moceanu said.