Ice Skaters must be at least 17 to take part in the senior competition after the Sports Governing Body voted Tuesday to raise the minimum age from 15.
The decision by the International Skating Union (ISU) Congress in Phuket, Thailand, came months after the Beijing Winter Olympics drug scandal involving 15-year-old Russian figure skater Camilla Valiva.
“This is a very historic decision,” said ISU President Jan Dizkema.
Valiva failed a pre-games drug test but was allowed to compete and then broke down after falling more than once during her performance, with a worldwide spotlight on her.
He ended out of the medal with a flurry of questions about the impact of his squad after an exciting and tearful post-routine encounter with his coach.
The ISU said raising the age limit before the Valiva case was on its agenda and acknowledged that elite adolescents had a responsibility to care for athletes.
The change will be phased out in the coming years, reaching the age of 17 in the 2024/25 season.
Ahead of the vote, ISU Director General Freddie Schmidt acknowledged that the organization had faced media pressure and a “major attack” in the run-up to the Olympics, and reminded delegates that the sport’s reputation was at stake.
“The moment of truth is obvious today because the credibility of ISU will also be tested. The media and the public will watch us closely so don’t forget it, “he said.
‘Before the child’
The skating body’s medical advice argues that raising the age limit to 17 would benefit young skaters physically and mentally and help them expand their careers.
“As an administrator of the sport of skating, I think it is your moral obligation and duty to give these young skaters the opportunity and time to develop the skills they need to succeed at the senior level,” said Dr. Jane Moran.
“They have a right to develop as human beings in their teens … we don’t have to force them to compete.”
A medical report said the change would give junior athletes time to reach skeletal maturity.
“Of concern is that during periods of known skeletal weakness, adolescent athletes may experience excessive training and competition loads associated with high-level competition, which puts the athlete at risk of injury,” the medical report said.
It warns that some elite adolescent athletes may experience puberty delay for an average of two years as a result of the physical need for training and inadequate energy intake.
It noted that some people were at higher risk of developing eating disorders.
The Athletes Commission surveyed about 1,000 athletes and coaches, and 86 percent were in favor of lifting the age limit.
Some representatives from smaller countries argued that the changes would have a negative impact on their skaters’ talents and ability to send athletes to elite competitions.
But other smaller skating nations, such as Iceland and Ireland, argued that the focus should be on protecting young people.
The representative of Ireland in Phuket said, “We have to remember that they are the first child and the second athlete.
An amendment to raise the minimum age to 16 and then waiting for the issue to be revisited after the 2026 Winter Olympics was rejected.
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