How young is too young to be crucified in elite, international sports?
In figure skating – a sport that worries questions about the mental and physical safety of its best and youngest competitors on the global stage – they seem ready to address the issue directly with a new proposal to raise the minimum age from 15. 17 in its major events, including the Winter Olympics.
The International Skating Association, the global governing body for sports, will vote on the event when it meets in Thailand next month.
The issue of imposing minimum age restrictions on global sports – which has long been debated in many other sports, such as gymnastics – resurfaced in alarming form at the Beijing Olympics earlier this year, where Russian skater Kamila Valiyeva, then 15, emerged. The center of the doping scandal that rocked the entire games.
The ISU board, which had been researching the issue well before the Olympics, has now proposed a gradual change to the rule: to keep the minimum age at 15 this year, to raise it to 16 before the start of the 2023-24 season. Rise to 17 in 2024-2025.
The deadlines provide a new limit for the 2026 Olympics in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.
“It is likely that access to junior athletes may be subject to their workload and risks that are deemed inappropriate for their age, not only physically but also in terms of the child’s psychological and social development,” the report said. From the University Medical Commission included in the proposal of the organization.
The proposal seems to have widespread support around sports, which, especially on the part of women, is increasingly dominated by teenage girls who can perform dazzling, acrobatic jumps.
The ISU cites a survey conducted last winter by the organization’s Athletes Commission on athletes, coaches and other sports in which 86.2 per cent of 966 respondents supported raising the minimum age.
“I absolutely believe in the age limit,” said Maria Bell, an American skater who turned 26 last month while competing in the Beijing Games.
Bell suggests shifting the focus of competition to younger competitors – who are still developing physically, psychologically and emotionally and often quit sports shortly after reaching the peak – may elevate athletes who are more mature and can develop longer careers.
He added: “I think it would be amazing to have more such athletes and I think the age limit will help us with that.”
The ISU proposal included the submission of the Norwegian Ice Skating Federation, which directly addressed the issue: from 1994 to 2018, there were five Olympic gold medalists in women’s skating between the ages of 15 and 17; All of them retired before or after the World Cup.
“Debuting at a senior level at the age of 15 does not seem to push skaters towards a long career in the sport,” Norway said in a statement. “Our sport must foster rules and a competitive environment that facilitates a long career.”
At the Olympics in February, Valieva, who turned 16 last month, helped the Russian team win gold. Then came the news that he had a positive test for a banned substance before the games, which threw the teenager into the midst of a fierce global sports controversy.
The Swiss International Court of Justice ruled that Valieva could have continued competing until her case was considered, but dropped out of the women’s competition and dropped to fourth place despite being a gold medal favorite. Immediately, the international audience watched how his coach, Eteri Tutberidze, criticized him in front of the TV cameras.
Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee, suggests that the so-called He called on individual sports federations to discuss the issue in more depth.
“It was nice to see that,” Bach said of the relationship between Valieva and Tutberidze. Instead of giving him comfort rather than trying to help him, you could feel the atmosphere of this cold, this distance.
The ISU medical report included warnings about the physical effects of intense competition on bodies that were still developing, including hormonal problems and skeletal injuries.
He also noted that aging can address the psychological risks of participating in elite sports at a young age, including “burns, poor nutrition and long-term trauma consequences.”
Nicole Shot, 25, who competed for Germany in Beijing, suggested during the Olympics that many young skaters would give up until they fully understand the nature of their sporting careers.
“We see from the past that many skaters leave at the age of 17 or 18,” he said. “It’s really unfortunate because I think they do not even realize what they did at the time – they are very young.”
Alan Blinder Contributed to the report.