Figure skating proposal to raise age minimum detailed

Figure Skating
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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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Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

Kendall Gretsch
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Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine
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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”