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Franck Fife, AFP, Getty Images
China's Kexin He competes in the women's uneven bars final of the artistic gymnastics at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

Aug. 18 (Bloomberg)—U.S. gymnast Nastia Liukin said she was disappointed after a judging decision gave China's He Kexin the gold medal in the women's uneven bars at the Beijing Olympics even though they finished with the same score.

The gymnasts and their coaches were at first confused by the ruling, in which the judges broke the tie by awarding the gold medal to 16-year-old He based on a new scoring system.

Liukin and He had posted scores of 16.725. Under the new scoring format, judges use a count-back system where the highest and lowest of the five officials' marks are removed one by one until a winner emerges. Scoring was revamped for this Olympics following judging controversies at the 2004 Games.

"I'm a little disappointed, just knowing that I tied," Liukin told reporters. "It wasn't that I got second by three or five points. I had the same exact score and that makes it a little bit harder to take. Unfortunately you can't control the judges. It's all up to them."

It's the latest controversy surrounding He, following the emergence last week of a report by the state-run Xinhua news agency published last year saying she was 13. The minimum age for gymnasts is 16 for Olympic competition.

Liukin, who three days ago became the third U.S. gymnast to win the women's all-around title, said her transition from the high bar to the low bar in today's routine was the determining factor in the judges' decision.

'Someone Else's Hands'

"Unfortunately that's our sport," said Liukin, 18, who Has collected one gold, two silvers and a bronze in Beijing. "In other sports like track and field it's all times. Here you do your performance and turn it over to someone else's hands."

Liukin's father and coach, Valery Liukin, shared a gold medal at the 1988 Olympics when he tied with Vladimir Artemov in the horizontal bar competition.

At the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, Pete Vidmar of the U.S. shared the men's pommel horse gold medal with China's Li Ning after they finished with the same score. The rules have since been changed to break ties.

"Is this fair? I play by the rules and so in my opinion I would have to say yes," Liukin said. "The Chinese girl did an excellent routine and actually the girl who got third I think got a little under-scored. She did a great routine. It's unfair to her, it's unfair to some people, but the judges have their own opinion and there's nothing you can do about it."

The International Olympic Committee said three days ago there was no evidence to support allegations that China may have manipulated ages of its women gymnasts.

Asked about her age tonight, He said the governing body of gymnastics had "proved" she was 16. Her date of birth on the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee official database is listed as Jan. 1, 1992.

"If I'm under 16, I couldn't have been competing here," He told reporters after her win. "People who know me personally know that I'm 16."