Figure skating age minimum raised ahead of next Olympics

Figure Skating
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The International Skating Union approved gradually raising the figure skating age minimum from 15 years to 17 years for Olympic-level competition before the next Winter Games in 2026, which will impact the women’s singles event.

The previously detailed proposal, hatched before the Beijing Olympics to be voted on at this month’s congress, was “an urgently needed change to protect the physical, mental and emotional health of the athletes.”

Currently, skaters must reach age 15 by July 1 of the preceding year to be eligible for senior competition, including the Olympics.

The new rule calls for an increase after next season: turning 16 years old to be eligible for senior competition starting in 2023-24. Then upping it to 17 for the 2024-25 season and beyond, including the 2026 Olympics in Italy.

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 heart medication 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. Anti-doping rules have a provision that athletes under the age of 16 may face lesser punishments for doping violations than those 16 and over, including a reprimand rather than a suspension.

Russian individual gold and silver medalists Anna Shcherbakova and Aleksandra Trusova were both 17.

Valieva and Trusova were both in tears after the free skate. IOC President Thomas Bach said afterward that he was “very, very disturbed” watching on TV. He described the way that Valieva’s entourage, including coach Eteri Tutberidze, received the skater after her performance as with “a tremendous coldness” and that it was “chilling” to see.

“After the Olympic Games, the circumstances you all know, we became quite under pressure from the media point of view, questioning the credibility of the ISU,” ISU director general Fredi Schmid said Tuesday at the ISU Congress in Thailand before the proposal was up for a vote. “We received enormous amount of questions. How come that you allowed such young skaters to compete under this emotional pressure? This should not be allowed. This was a major attack, let’s say. … The moment of truth, obviously, is today because the credibility of the ISU will also be scrutinized. I think this is a fact that the media and the public will watch us very closely, so don’t forget this.”

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.

The proposal passed with 100 voting for the change, 16 against and two abstentions.

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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Shaunae Miller-Uibo, Olympic 400m champion, announces pregnancy

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Bahamian Shaunae Miller-Uibo, the two-time reigning Olympic 400m champion, announced she is pregnant with her first child.

“New Year, New Blessing,” she posted on social media with husband Maicel Uibo, the 2019 World Championships silver medalist in the decathlon for Estonia. “We can’t wait to meet our little bundle of joy.”

Miller-Uibo, 28, followed her repeat Olympic title in Tokyo by winning her first world indoor and outdoor titles last year.

Also last year, Miller-Uibo said she planned to drop the 400m and focus on the 200m going into the 2024 Paris Games rather than possibly bid to become the first woman to win the same individual Olympic running event three times.

She has plenty of experience in the 200m, making her world championships debut in that event in 2013 and placing fourth. She earned 200m bronze at the 2017 Worlds, was the world’s fastest woman in the event in 2019 and petitioned for a Tokyo Olympic schedule change to make a 200m-400m double easier. The petition was unsuccessful.

She did both races anyway, finishing last in the 200m final, 1.7 seconds behind the penultimate finisher on the same day of the 400m first round.

She did not race the 200m at last July’s worlds, where the 200m and 400m overlapped.

Notable moms to win individual Olympic sprint titles include American Wilma Rudolph, who swept the 100m, 200m and 4x100m at the 1960 Rome Olympics two years after having daughter Yolanda.

And Dutchwoman Fanny Blankers-Koen, who won four gold medals at the 1948 London Olympics, when the mother of two also held world records in the high jump and long jump, two events in which she didn’t compete at those Games.

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Germany goes 1-2 at bobsled worlds; Kaillie Humphries breaks medals record

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Kim Kalicki and Lisa Buckwitz gave Germany a one-two in the world bobsled championships two-woman event, while American Kaillie Humphries earned bronze to break the career medals record.

Kalicki, who was fourth at last year’s Olympics and leads this season’s World Cup standings, edged Buckwitz by five hundredths of a second combining times from four runs over the last two days in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Humphries, with push athlete Kaysha Love, was 51 hundredths behind.

Olympic champion Laura Nolte was in third place after two runs but crashed in the third run.

Humphries, 37 and a three-time Olympic champion between two-woman and monobob, earned her eighth world championships medal in the two-woman event. That broke her tie for the record of seven with retired German Sandra Kiriasis. Humphries is also the most decorated woman in world championships monobob, taking gold and silver in the two times it has been contested.

Humphries rolled her ankle after the first day of last week’s monobob, plus took months off training in the offseason while also doing two rounds of IVF.

“I chose to continue the IVF journey through the season which included a Lupron Depot shot the day before this race began,” she posted after her monobob silver last weekend. “My weight and body fluctuating all year with hormones, it was a battle to find my normal while competing again. I’m happy with this result, I came into it wanting a podium and we achieved it as a team.”

Love, who was seventh with Humphries in the Olympic two-woman event, began her transition to become a driver after the Games.

Worlds finish Sunday with the final two runs of the four-man event.

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