The International Skating Union council detailed its proposal for raising the minimum age for senior figure skating competitions from 15 to 17 before the next Olympics, saying it is an urgently needed change to protect the physical, mental and emotional health of the athletes.
The previously reported proposal is slated to be discussed, and expected to be voted on, at the ISU’s biennial congress next month in Thailand.
Currently, skaters must reach age 15 by July 1 of the preceding year to be eligible for senior competition, including the Olympics.
The proposal calls for an increase after next season: turning 16 years old by July of the preceding year to be eligible for senior competition starting in 2023-24. Then upping it to 17 for the 2024-25 season and beyond.
Russian Alina Zagitova won the 2018 Olympic title at age 15 and left competitive skating at age 17.
Russian Kamila Valieva, then 15, was the favorite going into this year’s Olympics and finished fourth after news surfaced of a positive drug test for a banned substance from a sample taken on Christmas.
Valieva, with the Russian Olympic Committee, won the team event before the positive test result was announced, leading to a postponement of that medal ceremony until her case is adjudicated.
Russian individual gold and silver medalists Anna Shcherbakova and Aleksandra Trusova were both 17.
The ISU council proposal was reported by Russian media before the women’s figure skating event at the Beijing Games.
Increasing the age minimum to 17 decreases the risk of injury “if training loads are modified during times of rapid growth” and allows skaters to “expand on their social and emotional skills development,” according to the proposal.
The ISU medical commission cited concern of burnout, disordered eating and long-term injury.
The council cited an ISU athletes commission survey from a year ago in which 86.2 percent of respondents supported raising the age minimum.
In 2018, a similar proposal was taken off the congress agenda because it didn’t have sufficient support — 80 percent of the members attending congress to approve its place on the agenda.
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