Minimum age for figure skating at 2026 Olympics raised to 17 years

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As a result of the recent controversy surrounding 15-year-old Russian figure skating champion Kamila Valieva at the Beijing Games, the International Skating Union (ISU) has passed a resolution that they will be raising the minimum age for figure skating competitions to 17.

This will come into effect before the Winter Olympics which will take place in Milan-Cortina d’Ampezzo in Italy.

The ISU president Jan Dijkema said in a statement, ““This is a very important decision. I would say a very historic decision.”

As per the ruling which was voted upon (110-16), the age limit will be phased in with first 16-year-olds being allowed to compete in the 2023-24 competition seasons and the age limit will then be raised to 17 years the season following that, which is the last competing season before the 2026 Olympics.

This change in age limit was in the reckoning for a while now but became an urgent matter following the emotional strain on Russian skater Valieva who is only 15 years old.

She was the hot favourite to take home the solo gold medal, after she helped her figure skating team win the title, but before that her drug test was belatedly revealed to have been positive.

While, for adults, a positive drug test means immediate suspension, the teen was allowed to continue her training but under extreme scrutiny while the Court of Arbitration for Sport hearing was being prepared which would allow her to compete in future competitions subject to a complete investigation, which is still ongoing in Russia.

But the pressure on the teenager was enormous and she had multiple falls in her performance making her drop to fourth place.

Bearing in mind the emotional and physical strain on young teenagers the ISU has drafted this age limit and they say “burnout, disordered eating, and long-term consequences of injury” were some of the biggest risks for young underage skaters who were pushed hard to perform multiple quadruple jumps.

The ISU further stated that “it had a duty of care to protect the physical and psychological health and safety of all athletes including elite adolescent athlete(s).”

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