Figure skating minimum age increases to 17 ahead of 2026 Olympics

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PHUKET, Thailand (AP) — No 15-year-old figure skater will be allowed to compete in the 2026 Olympics following controversy surrounding Russian national champion Kamila Valieva at this year’s Beijing Games.

A new age limit for figure skaters at senior international events was passed by the International Skating Union on Tuesday in a 110-16 vote that will raise the minimum age to 17 ahead of the next Olympics. of Milan-Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.

“It’s a very important decision,” said ISU President Jan Dijkema. “I would say a very historic decision.”

The limit will be phased in with 16-year-olds allowed to compete in the 2023-24 season, rising to 17 the following season, which is the last before the Olympics.

The change was happening even before figure skating at the Beijing Olympics was dominated by the emotional stress placed on 15-year-old Valieva. She was the favorite to win individual gold, having helped the Russians win the team title, before her positive doping test in December was revealed late at the Olympics.

The teenager was allowed to train under intense scrutiny as a Court of Arbitration for Sport hearing was prepared, allowing her to compete pending the full investigation in Russia. It’s still ongoing.

However, her main routine was filled with errors and she dropped to fourth place. She was then criticized on the ice side by her coach, Eteri Tutberidze.

The ISU has drafted an age limit proposal stating that “burnout, eating disorders and long-term consequences of injury” are a risk for young adolescent skaters who are pressured to perform more quadruple jumps.

The governing body said it had “a duty of care to protect the physical and psychological health and safety of all athletes, including elite adolescent athletes”.

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