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  1. #1

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    Champions too soon?

    So many young skaters won major championships at a very young age, and it seemed to stop their development as skaters.

    Looking at ladies (singles and a few pairs) who won major championships before they were 18:

    Tara Lipinski (98 OGM at 15)- turned pro and had an injury ridden pro career

    Oksana Baiul (94 OGM at 16)- turned pro, had problems with alcohol, and had a so so pro career

    Sarah Hughes (2002 OGM at 16)- competed for one more year; had little success, turned pro and probably had the worst pro career of all.

    Kimmie Meisner (2006 WC at 16)- continued to compete but had no success; finally retired

    Denise Biellman (1981 WC at 17)- turned pro and had a solid pro career. She was one of the exceptions

    Marina Cherkasova (1980 WC pairs at 15, with partner Shakharai)- had a growth spurt and grew too tall for her partner to lift her. They split after 1982, after missing the podium.

    Exceptions:

    Michelle Kwan (1996 WC at 15)- Had a stellar eligible career with 5 WC and 2 Olympic medals

    Ekaterina Gordeeva (1986 WC at 14 with partner Grinkov)- Had a glorius pairs career as eligible and pro, with 2 OGM, 4 WC and many pro championships.

    Some ladies problems were physical (growth spurt related), but some were mental.

    By contrast, men who won major championships at a young age do not seem to be hindered in their development as skaters. I will set that age to be 20 and under.

    Patrick Chan- 2011 WC at 19(?)- doing even better

    Ilia Kulik- 1998 OGM at 20- turned pro and developed as an artist without losing his jumping ability

    Evgeni Plushenko- 2001 WC at 18. Need I say more? OGM, 3 WC, Olympic silver

    Alexei Yagudin- 1998 WC at 18- OGM and 4 WC. Only injuries stopped his development as an athlete, but he continued to be a masterful artist.

    Dick Button - OGM at 18 (was it in 1948?)- Won another OGM and 4 WC

  2. #2

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    I think girls at the age of 15/16 deal with the growing monster more than the boys. Men actually improve upon getting bigger, where as it becomes harder for the girls. That coupled with a lack of motivation once you have achieved your goals has to make it hard.. going from a jumper to an artistic skater, many may not be bothered.

    It makes sense that someone who has lived a very controlled and "healthy" life for as long as they can remember would turn to partying/alcohol once they have a bit of money and freedom.

  3. #3
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    I believe that skaters who won top events (Worlds and Olys) at a very young age (15-16) tend to have a career similar to gymnasts : they win it all and retire because there is no point to continue since they have reached their goal.

    Michelle Kwan is not an exception IMO because her goal was to become olympic champion and even with her worlds titles she still was pursuing her olympic dream. And that (never fulfilled) dream may have been a reason why she had such a long and eventually successfull career, which made her entered the legend of the sport.
    Had she become olympic champion in 98 she might have stopped her career much earlier, wich would have left her with something like an olympic gold medal and 2 world titles. That would have been enough for her to go pro and be successfull.

    Yuna Kim won everything and then is in the path of retirement. Had she not win gold in 2010 she would highly probably still be around.

    Gordeeva is also not an exception to the "rule" neither because she is an exception in herself whatever trend one tries to follow ! Youngest olympic pair champion, death of her husband, support of the whole american skating world, succesfull solo pro career, fantastic artistry... At the time she and Grinkov won their first oly's gold medal it was still the Soviet Union, so they were highly "encouraged" to continue competitions. They still retired after 2 years and came back only because of a new opportunity to come back to amator skating, but at the time they retired in 90 they didn't know they could come back. So, they were in the steps of full retirement from competitions. And as they said themselves, they had won it all, were tired of competitions and then retired.

  4. #4

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    I don't think it is possible to be a champion too soon. I remember Kurt Browning being interviewed during the course of winning his 4 world championships saying that he remembered some worlds and olympics that should have gone to his countrymen in his opinion, so "if its a win, I'm gonna take her." There is so much that goes into the pursuit of these titles, and so much beyond the skater's control that you have to take the win when you can.

  5. #5
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    I fail to see a pattern.

    For a long time Henie was both the youngest and oldest oly champ, so.....

    Tara, Oksana, and really Sarah as well, all retired after they won the big one, so it's hard to compare pros to eligables. Shiz may have been older and a bit more polished, but I don't really see a big difference between her two titles and scram than Tara and oksana's, unless this is one of those "they didn't pay their dues" rants, like a skating champ must skate for x amount of hours before they "deserve" a title.

    At the end of the day, are older 1 title champs like Maria or chen lu really better skaters than Tara or oksana? I know I prefer Masha and lulu, but that's preference. I can't really say Tara and oksana were worse, just less to my liking.

    Kimmie follows a different pattern IMO. She stared out as a jumping bean, but as she developed in all other areas, the jumps left her. I saw a lot of improvement in kimmie, even as she sank in the standings. Jumps rule. That's all.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Artifice View Post
    I believe that skaters who won top events (Worlds and Olys) at a very young age (15-16) tend to have a career similar to gymnasts : they win it all and retire because there is no point to continue since they have reached their goal.
    Sometimes athletes just like to compete, gold medal or not.

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    I think with Tara, and Oksana-they had achieved everything they wanted so there was no point to continue.

    I think if they HAD to continue Tara would have phased out as a top contender due to her injury. Maybe she would have won 98 worlds and another nationals but I dont think much more than that. There is no way she could have continued with 7 triple 3/3 loop programs and that was the key to her winning against Michelle.

    Oksana most likely would have phased out as well. SHe had a huge growth spurt that probably would have affected her jumps. I guess its possible she could have won 1994 and 1995 worlds but nothing after that with MK and Tara as the top contenders.

    Sarah did try to continue and had a growth spurt and was unmotivated and was no longer a contender at the world level. Plus she never skated like she did before or after the Olympics so...

    Kimmie WANTED to continue, but growth spurts and injury prevented her. A shame becaus she did make a lot of improvements.

    If Michelle had won in 1998, the only thing that would have stopped her from winning more titles would have been being unmotivated. Growth spurts and injury did not affect her as it did the other 4 ladies mentioned. So I would say that she is an exception in that respect, when compared to them.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by berthesghost View Post
    At the end of the day, are older 1 title champs like Maria or chen lu really better skaters than Tara or oksana?
    Chen Lu = older?

    1994 Olympic Bronze = 17 years old
    1995 World Gold = 18 years old
    1998 Olympic Bronze = 21 years old

    I can understand 21 being considered "older" in the skating world, but 17/18 is young.

    Maria, on the other hand, was 26 when she won Worlds in 1999 ... considerable difference!

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    Kimmie officially retired?!??! I thought she just said her heart wasn't really into competing anymore...

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by smarts1 View Post
    Kimmie officially retired?!??! I thought she just said her heart wasn't really into competing anymore...
    Actually she always says that she loves to compete and she would like to be back but she can't. A knee injury destroyed her when she was attempting a come back before 2010 Olympics. Now it would be too hard for her to relearn all triples etc. Nevertheless, in every interview I've seen, she says she misses competing very much.

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    i think Michelle kwan even if she won OGM in 1998 would stayed in until 2002

    i remember reading in paper she stated ahead of time she would have stayed in no matter which medal.

    however in 2002 if she won OGM she may have not stayed in.

    but i think figure skating as a whole lost out when she didn't win. yes you get things but more doors could have been opened up alot sooner if she would have won and people might have stayed desipte problems.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by bartek View Post
    Actually she always says that she loves to compete and she would like to be back but she can't. A knee injury destroyed her when she was attempting a come back before 2010 Olympics. Now it would be too hard for her to relearn all triples etc. Nevertheless, in every interview I've seen, she says she misses competing very much.
    The most recent one I saw said that she's put things into perspective and wants to kind of move on with her life.

  13. #13

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    I have always wondered how much Sarah and Oksana had developed as skaters had they not won the OGM that soon? In Tara's case I think the injuries would have shortened her career, but who knows she could have competed a couple more years and matured more as an artist.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vash01 View Post
    I have always wondered how much Sarah and Oksana had developed as skaters had they not won the OGM that soon? In Tara's case I think the injuries would have shortened her career, but who knows she could have competed a couple more years and matured more as an artist.
    I've also wondered about how those two would have developed.

    In Oksana's case, more than the others, I also wonder if she would have been better off personally if she hadn't won in 1994. Perhaps if she'd still been training for and competing on the elgible circuit with an eye on Nagano, she wouldn't have gotten involved with the not-so-good things.

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    Unhappy

    [QUOTE=Vash01;3582429]So many young skaters won major championships at a very young age, and it seemed to stop their development as skaters............
    Some ladies problems were physical (growth spurt related), but some were mental.

    For most skaters, winning at a young age, growth spurts, and mental issues are not the main issues that stop their development. It's the injuries related to this sport. Unfortunately, a career-ending injury is a career-ending injury no matter the age of onset.

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    I would add Tracy Wainmann (CAN) to this list.

    Wainmann was 12 when she made the World team in 1980. She won the National title in 1981, but a growth spurt the following year saw her lose her triples, the double axel, and a place on the world team.

    She came back in 1986 and won the national title again, which was good to see.
    Last edited by essence_of_soy; 06-01-2012 at 12:49 AM.

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    Didn't Denise Biellmann's decision to turn pro have more to do with finances than anything else?

    She continued to skate at much the same level for many years.

    I recall reading in discussion threads that she got a tempting offer from an ice show and other pro sponsors, and that, plus the financial strain on her family, helped make the decision to leave the amateur ranks.

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    I am thinking more of girls that were prodigies young like Cindy Bortz, Deanna Stellato, Jenny Kirk, Naomi Nam, Lisa Ervin, Elizabeth Kwon etc. Tara, Sarah, etc won gold. These girls peaked too soon

  19. #19
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    Cynthia Phaneuf too. She's never reached the same level as when she won her first Canadian title in 2004 the week she turned 16 - her growth spurt really hurt her (both literally and figuratively).

  20. #20

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    I'm thinking of somebody that should have been World Champion this year.

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