Post Russian Figure Skating Teenage Sensation’s Controversy at Olympics, ISU Introduces Major Age Restrictions in the Sport

Published 05/03/2022, 8:00 AM EDT

The agenda of the 2022 ISU Congress outlines some major changes in the rules and regulations of major international competitions. One of the most notable ones is their decision to increase the minimum age of participation to 17. Here, athletes under 17 will no longer be able to partake in senior international competitions from the 2024-25 season. Currently, the minimum rests at 15.

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Reasoning to increase the age limit by ISU Congress

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“Increasing the age limit to 17 years of age to qualify for entry to the Senior category allows the Junior athlete the time necessary to reach skeletal maturity decreasing risk of epiphyseal injury if training loads are modified during times of rapid growth and to expand on their social and emotional skills development,” said a report from the ISU Medical Commission.

“Ultimately, performance enhancements are normally the central concern for ambitious athletes, as athletes themselves and by others are continually evaluating their accomplishments.” 

2022 Beijing Olympics – Figure Skating – Women Single Skating – Free Skating – Capital Indoor Stadium, Beijing, China – February 17, 2022. Kamila Valieva of the Russian Olympic Committee reacts after competing with coaches Daniil Gleikhengauz and Eteri Tutberidze of the Russian Olympic Committee. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

The proposal cites the medical report as the basis of its reasoning for the change. They claimed that the pressure and physical rigor put upon young skaters exposes them to psychological risks and delays their physical growth and development.

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The Council proposal is based on a gradual increase. There will be no change (15 years) for the season 2022/23, an increase to 16 years for the season 2023/24, and an increase to 17 years for the season 2024/25 and subsequent seasons. This change has come around in light of the recent controversy at the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

Kamila Valieva Olympic controversy

Russia has consistently put out teenage skaters in the ladies’ singles field that have swept the podiums one after the other. Russia’s Kamila Valieva was one of, if not the top, contender for gold at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. However, she tested positive for a performance-enhancing illegal drug in a drug test taken in December 2021. Incidentally, these results had only been reported after the team event in Beijing, bringing Valieva’s participation into question.

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Russia won the gold in the team event, but the drug test returning positive invalidated the results until further investigation. Consequently, this hindered the presentation of medals to the winners of the team event. But Valieva was cleared to participate in the individual event by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. This sparked fans to bring Valieva’s coach Eteri Tutberidze’s methods and practices into question.

Valieva placed fourth in the individual competition and returned to the rink-side in tears. Notably, Tutberidze has a long list of teenage skaters winning every competition when they turn senior at 15. But they burn out by the age of 18 with major injuries and disorders. This list includes skaters like Yulia Lipnitskaya, Evgenia Medvedeva, and Alina Zagitova. Fans have started calling the Eteri girls ‘one season wonders’ because of their extremely short competitive spans. Most of them have sustained injuries and retired at a young age.

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The ISU will vote on the proposal next month. If passed, the change will be in effect at the 2026 Milan-Cortina Olympics.

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Mansi Jain

188 articles

Mansi Jain is a US Sports author for EssentiallySports. She has a Bachelor's degree in Multimedia and Mass Communication from the University of Delhi and has previously interned for HT Media. When not online, Mansi can be found pursuing the shelves at the nearest bookstore.

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