Figure Skating Federation Proposes Raising Minimum Age to Compete

How younger is just too younger within the crucible of elite, worldwide sports activities?

Officers in determine skating — a sport plagued on the worldwide stage by questions in regards to the psychological and bodily security of a few of its greatest and youngest rivals — seem set to handle the problem head-on with a brand new proposal to lift the minimal age from 15 to 17 in its main occasions, together with the Winter Olympics.

The Worldwide Skating Union, the worldwide governing physique for the game, will vote on the measure when it meets subsequent month in Thailand.

The query of instituting minimal age limits in international sports activities — lengthy debated in lots of different sports activities, like gymnastics — re-emerged in unsettling trend early this 12 months on the Beijing Olympics, the place the Russian skater Kamila Valieva, who was then 15, emerged on the heart of a doping scandal that rocked your complete Video games.

The I.S.U. council, which had already been analyzing the problem properly earlier than the Olympics, has now proposed a gradual change to the rule: holding the minimal age at 15 this 12 months, nudging it to 16 earlier than the beginning of the 2023-24 season, earlier than bumping it to 17 for 2024-2025.

The timeline would guarantee the brand new restrict can be in place for the 2026 Olympics in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.

“It’s conceivable that permitting under-age athletes to compete might topic them to hundreds and dangers which are considered inappropriate for his or her age, not solely bodily, however by way of the psychological and social growth of the kid,” learn a report from the I.S.U.’s medical fee that was included within the group’s proposal.

The proposal appears to have broad assist across the sport, which, notably on the ladies’s aspect, has more and more develop into dominated by teenage ladies able to performing dazzling, acrobatic jumps.

The I.S.U., in its proposal, cited a survey of athletes, coaches and others within the sport performed by the group’s athletes’ fee this previous winter through which 86.2 percent of the 966 respondents supported elevating the minimal age.

“I completely imagine there needs to be an age restrict,” American skater Mariah Bell, who turned 26 final month, stated whereas competing on the Beijing Video games.

Bell instructed that shifting the main focus of competitors away from younger rivals — who’re nonetheless growing bodily, psychologically and emotionally, and sometimes wash out of the game quickly after they peak — may elevate athletes who’re extra mature and extra able to cultivating longer careers.

She added, “I believe that to have extra athletes like that will be superb, and I believe having an age restrict would assist in that occuring.”

The I.S.U.’s proposal included a submission from the Norwegian skating federation that touched straight on this level: Between 1994 and 2018, 5 Olympic gold medalists in ladies’s skating have been between the ages of 15 and 17; all of them retired both simply earlier than or proper after the world championships the next season.

“To debut on the senior degree at 15 years previous doesn’t appear to encourage the skaters to have a protracted profession within the sport,” the assertion from Norway learn. “Our sport ought to facilitate guidelines and a contest setting that helps the opportunity of a long-lasting profession.”

On the Olympics in February, Valieva, who turned 16 final month, helped the Russian workforce win gold. Then information emerged that she had examined constructive for a banned substance within the run-up to the Video games, plunging {the teenager} into the center of a raging international sports activities controversy.

A world court docket in Switzerland dominated that Valieva may proceed to compete whereas her case was examined, however she faltered within the ladies’s singles competitors, falling to fourth place regardless of being the gold medal favourite. Instantly afterward, worldwide audiences watched as she was harshly criticized in entrance of tv cameras by her coach, Eteri Tutberidze.

Thomas Bach, the president of the Worldwide Olympic Committee, instructed that the so-called entourages of teenage athletes — the coaches and different individuals charged with taking care of their well-being — have been falling wanting their duties in lots of circumstances. He referred to as for particular person sports activities federations to look at the problem in additional depth.

“It was chilling to see this,” Bach stated of the interactions between Valieva and Tutberidze. “Fairly than giving her consolation, reasonably than attempt to assist her, you would really feel this chilling environment, this distance.”

The I.S.U.’s medical report included warnings in regards to the bodily results of intense competitors on our bodies that have been nonetheless growing, together with hormonal issues and skeletal accidents.

It famous, too, that elevating the age may tackle psychological dangers stemming from participation in elite sports activities at a younger age, together with “burnout, disordered consuming, and long-term penalties of damage.”

Nicole Schott, 25, who competed in Beijing for Germany, instructed in the course of the Olympics that many younger skaters stop earlier than they may totally grasp the character of their athletic careers.

“We see from the previous that numerous skaters stop at like 17, 18,” she stated. “It’s really unhappy as a result of I believe they can not even notice what they did on this time — they’re too younger.”

Alan Blinder contributed reporting.

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