Figure skating’s governing body proposes increasing age minimum to 17

Placeholder while article actions load

Figure skating’s global governing body proposed a new rule that would increase the minimum age to 17 for major international competitions, including the Olympics. Previously skaters needed to have turned 15 before the July 1 that precedes the competition.

The International Skating Union will vote on the proposal when it meets next month, and if approved, the rule will be in place before the 2026 Olympics in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo. The proposal features a gradual change, keeping the current rule for the 2022-23 season, then raising it to 16 in 2023-24 and to 17 in 2024-25 and beyond. The new rule would most significantly affect the women’s singles discipline that often features teenage stars.

“It is conceivable that allowing underage athletes to compete may subject them to loads and risks that are thought to be inappropriate for their age, not only physically, but in terms of the psychological and social development of the child,” said a report from the ISU Medical Commission, which the governing body cited as its basis for the change.

Despite Kamila Valieva’s tragic loss, her Russian Olympic Committee teammates Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova received top medals in Beijing on Feb 17. (Video: Allie Caren/The Washington Post)

Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva became a flash point of the 2022 Olympics in Beijing when her drug test from December 2021 returned a positive result for a banned substance. The result was not reported until after the Games had begun, and the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that Valieva, then 15, could continue to compete. Medals still have not been awarded for the figure skating team event, which was won by the Russian Olympic Committee’s group that included Valieva.

Her figure skaters can fly. But do a Russian coach’s tactics go too far?

Valieva, who entered Beijing as the gold medal favourite, crumbled under intense scrutiny during her free skate and fell to fourth place in the individual competition. When she left the ice in tears, she was met with what appeared to be an angry reaction from her coach, Eteri Tutberidze, a scene that drew criticism from International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach.

“When I afterward saw how she was received by her closest entourage with what appeared to be a tremendous coldness, it was chilling to see this,” Bach said. “Rather than giving her comfort, rather than trying to help her, you could feel this chilling atmosphere, this distance.”

Tutberidze coached all three Russians competing at the Games, including gold medalist Anna Shcherbakova, who was 17 at the time, and silver medalist Alexandra Trusova, another 17-year-old. All three Russian skaters performed difficult quadruple jumps that had never been successfully executed by women at the Olympics. Both Shcherbakova and Trusova would have been allowed to compete under the proposed rule, but Valieva wouldn’t have been eligible.

American Alysa Liu, 16, competed in Beijing, and then went on to win a bronze medal at the recent world championships before retiring from the sport.

The medical report cited in the ISU’s proposal focused on the physical and psychological concerns related to young elite skaters, including “burnout, disordered eating, and long-term consequences of injury.” The report said that the ISU has a “duty of care” to protect the health and safety of its athletes.

Jerry Brewer: Kamila Valieva’s torment will be the sad legacy of the Beijing Olympics

Amid the doping controversy at the Beijing Games, American skater Mariah Bell, 25 years old at the time, said she thought the ISU should increase the minimum age.

“I absolutely believe that there should be [an increased age] for so many reasons, but I keep going back to this idea that you want these athletes to have an opportunity to have this be a profession, not a one-year run at it,” she said. “ … I think it would promote that idea of ​​longevity and somebody being 25 wouldn’t be shocking at an Olympics.”

The ISU’s proposal would apply to all disciplines the governing body oversees: singles and pairs skating, ice dancing, speedskating and short-track speedskating, which are all part of the Winter Olympic program, as well as synchronized skating. The ISU Council said in its proposal that it recommended the change across all disciplines to maintain unified rules, even though there is already “limited participation” of athletes under 17 in speedskating and the changes “will therefore not have major consequences.”

Leave a Comment