Ice skaters should be a minimum of 17 years previous to compete in skilled competitions after the game’s governing physique voted Tuesday to extend the minimal age from 15.
The choice by the Worldwide Skating Union (ISU) congress in Phuket, Thailand, follows controversy surrounding the Russian determine skater Kamila Valieva at this 12 months’s Beijing Winter Olympics.
“It is a very historic resolution,” ISU president Jan Dijkema mentioned, after 100 international locations voted to help the measure, whereas solely 16 opposed.
Then 15-years-old, Valieva examined constructive for a banned substance in a pre-game doping check earlier than the 2022 Olympic contest.
She was allowed to compete, however broke down in tears after falling a number of instances throughout her efficiency, with the international highlight on her.
Valieva, who had been tipped for a gold medal, completed fourth.
The ISU mentioned it deliberate to lift the age restrict properly earlier than the Valieva case and acknowledged it had an obligation of care to elite adolescent athletes.
In a information launch, it mentioned the choice was made “for the sake of defending the bodily and psychological well being, and emotional well-being of the skaters.”
The change will likely be phased in step by step. A minimal age of 15 will stay for the upcoming season, enhance to 16 for the 2023-24 season after which increase to 17 for all following years, together with the 2026 Winter Video games.
This can disrupt the profession of high Russian junior skater Sofia Akateva, who’s 14. Her birthday falls days after the July 1 deadline to categorise skaters’ ages for the upcoming season. But, having turned 18, she is going to be capable of compete in 2026.
Earlier than the vote, ISU director-general Fredi Schmid acknowledged the physique had confronted media strain and a “main assault” within the wake of the Valieva controversy.
He informed delegates on the convention the game’s repute was at stake.
“The second of reality is clearly immediately as a result of the credibility of the ISU will even be scrutinised,” he mentioned. “The media and the general public will watch us very intently so remember this.”
The skating physique’s medical group additionally backed elevating the age restrict to 17, arguing it might profit younger skaters bodily and mentally, and assist prolong their careers.
“I really feel as directors of the game of skating it’s your ethical obligation and obligation to offer these younger skaters with the chance and time to develop… the abilities they require to be able to achieve success on the senior stage,” Dr Jane Moran from the ISU’s medical fee mentioned.
“They’ve the fitting to develop themselves as individuals throughout their adolescent age… They do not want us to be forcing them to compete.”
A medical report revealed forward of the choice mentioned the change would permit junior athletes time to succeed in skeletal maturity.
“The priority is that in a interval of recognized skeletal vulnerability, the adolescent athlete could also be uncovered to extreme coaching and competitors hundreds related to high-level competitors, which locations the athlete at better threat of damage,” the medical report mentioned.
It additionally warned that some elite adolescent athletes might expertise a puberty delay for a mean of two years due to the bodily calls for of coaching and insufficient power consumption. A better threat of creating consuming problems was additionally famous.
The athletes’ fee surveyed near 1,000 skilled athletes and coaches and located that 86 per cent had been in favour of lifting the age restrict.
Some representatives from smaller international locations argued the modifications would have a unfavorable affect on their expertise pool and skill to ship athletes to elite competitions.
Nevertheless, different smaller skating nations, corresponding to Iceland and Eire, mentioned the main focus ought to be on defending kids.
“We’ve got to recollect they’re kids first and athletes second,” Eire’s ISU consultant in Phuket mentioned.
An modification to lift the minimal age to 16 after which wait till after the 2026 Winter Olympics to revisit the problem was rejected.
The ISU drafted an age-limit proposal saying “burnout, disordered consuming, and long-term penalties of damage” had been a threat to younger teenage skaters who’re pushed to carry out extra quadruple jumps.
The choice was criticised in Russia, the place skaters are presently banned by the ISU from worldwide competitions due to the nation’s navy invasion of Ukraine.