ISU Council's Proposal to change Rule 108 - Age Limits for Single & Pair Skating / Ice Dance + ISU Medical Commission's report

Japanfan

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The age limit in gymnastics just hid the ones who didn't make it. I also think that the sport lost a lot of its grace when the participants became older. No matter how much power the older athletes have, they can't mimic the natural agility and grace of the younger athletes. They have the strength without the bulk of muscle. Nadia had all that agility and grace that was inspiring as a 14 year old. She was still a good gymnast but not quite the same as she became older.

I also feel the same about Julia Lipnitskaya. She may not have had a long career, however at least she (and the fans as well) will always have that moment she had in Sochi in the team event with her Schindler's List program. I still watch that program to this day.
If Julia had not had her moment due to the age rules, another skater could have had her moment.
There’s a lot of speculation about what would have happened to some of the youngest champions if they hadn’t been able to exercise their god-given right to twirl on television at thirteen years old or whatever the opponents of the rule change are complaining about. But what about the flipside? What about the ones who might not have burned out so fast, who might not have been exploited by abusive coaches, who might have been able to compete years longer than they did? What beautiful skating did we never see because we put so much pressure on young kids to do every possible thing at the earliest possible moment?

This.
 

Nadya

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Interesting that Kristy tweeted this since I believe she was 17 when she made her senior debut and 21 when she won the Olympics.

The age limit in gymnastics just hid the ones who didn't make it. I also think that the sport lost a lot of its grace when the participants became older. No matter how much power the older athletes have, they can't mimic the natural agility and grace of the younger athletes. They have the strength without the bulk of muscle. Nadia had all that agility and grace that was inspiring as a 14 year old. She was still a good gymnast but not quite the same as she became older.

I also feel the same about Julia Lipnitskaya. She may not have had a long career, however at least she (and the fans as well) will always have that moment she had in Sochi in the team event with her Schindler's List program. I still watch that program to this day.
Agility yes, grace no. Very few young skaters have enough control of their bodies to be graceful and finished in all their movements. That comes with age. That's why Valieva was/is such a sensation - not because of the quad, but because of the freakish, unusually expressive and well controlled movement you typically only see in a mature skater.

I feel like there is a group of skaters who were clearly not built for long-term success - like Lipnitskaya with her issues, or Sarah Hughes, whose thighs began to thunder the minute she stopped living on the ice. They had the good fortune to be at the top of their physical form at the Olympics. If not for that timing, you would have never heard much of them. Contrast this with Kwan, who doesn't have Olympic gold but her overall body of work over the years is for the legends.
 

tony

Throwing the (rule)book at them
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I also think Kristi was meant to say essentially 'but what is that going to do?' in terms of the bigger picture with the problems in figure skating and sports in general- those in which she even named in her Tweet. Changing the age doesn't even begin to touch the deeper issues when there's an extremely high probability that junior skaters are technically as, if not more advanced than their senior counterparts, at least in the women's field and those skaters still have full highly-competitive international event calendars. It's not as if the skaters are suddenly showing up to compete for the first time at 17.

In terms of the injuries side of things, even if the ISU takes everything a step further and bans junior skaters from including quad jumps in their programs (both junior boys and girls, for the sake of this argument), it's going to be impossible to stop the technically advanced to be practicing these jumps and/or pushing to learn more difficult elements so that they are 'senior-ready'. It's a touchy subject for many here, but constant injuries have been a thing in this sport long before quad jumps came in, and retiring shortly after graduating high school (because of wanting to focus on college and/or a different career path) is also something not that unique. There's really nothing that is going to make this stop happening regardless of how one thinks it all falls on the coach. One awkward landing on a jump, just like one awkward step while jogging or one slip while weightlifting and injury may occur. Match that with the constant force the hips, lower back, ankles, and legs take-- there's just no way around it.
 
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Karen-W

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Eh, @tony, I'm not so concerned with the attrition as the type of skating that is being rewarded. I do think that this age increase will help address that issue simply because skaters with poor technique won't necessarily make it out of the junior ranks (due in part to injuries) and we'll see better foundational skating with more power and deeper edges. Maybe it's a fantasy world I'm living in but the longer skaters have to remain in juniors, the more time they have to work on more than just jumps.
 

Vagabond

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The ISU might eventually ban quadruple jumps or redefine the sport in such a way that practicing them won't be worth the effort.

A sport that doesn't pay attention to its long-term adverse impact on young competitors' health will eventually implode. This is beginning to happen in American football.
 

VGThuy

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And let’s not pretend changing the gymnastics scoring systems, the tech committees, changing of the guard of who dominated, and the death of old Communist systems had nothing to do with the way gymnastics changed in terms of movement and style. Even young gymnasts today don’t move like young gymnasts did back in the 1970s and 1980s. In fact, even the “graceful” Russians who just won gold aren’t the same as the Soviets. Training methods, ridding compulsories, socio-economic realities, changes in equipment, and the open-ended scoring system that pushed difficulty way forward and yet was incredibly stringent on execution changed everything. Nadia and some of the 10.00s received from the golden age would be marked down for execution and form issues now (think of the Soviets and their cowboyed double tuck saltos) causing them to stiffen up and perform more mechanically to avoid judges mistaking flow for covering up an error or a balance check.
 
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On My Own

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The age limit in gymnastics just hid the ones who didn't make it. I also think that the sport lost a lot of its grace when the participants became older. No matter how much power the older athletes have, they can't mimic the natural agility and grace of the younger athletes. They have the strength without the bulk of muscle. Nadia had all that agility and grace that was inspiring as a 14 year old. She was still a good gymnast but not quite the same as she became older.
I don't really see how you come to this conclusion. Can't speak about gymnastics, but in figure skating, skating skills very much do improve with the effort you put into them, just as one example. It's dependent on the strength in your knee, your core, your ankles, which will improve as you age and build muscle. Better skating skills translate to better quality of movement across the ice.

You'll accumulate injuries as you grow older and lose ability if your ankles/knees lose too much strength, but you still almost never see a 16 year old having worse skating skills than when they were 14. The artistic component to skating is also completely different to the one in artistic gymnastics. You can't compare apples to oranges. An older athlete may have less flexibility and/or body fluidity compared to a younger athlete, but they might be superior on every other regard.
 
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I understand Yamaguchi's point of view. This is the "easy," broad brush solution to say we've done something even though it doesn't address the root of the problem. I also don't think the "Alysa Liu" model is bad at all - finish competing at 17/18, then go off to college and enjoy a "normal life." How much of this is a systemic problem, v. a problem with one coach / federation using excessive and probably illegal methods? That they can continue to use, just on a smaller subset of the population whose birth year aligns to Olympic years?

I think we'll see some unintended consequences: earlier drop-out of the sport among families that can't afford the continued expense (providing further advantage to the state-sponsored federations); setting up an unfortunate collision course between elite skating and university, with even more difficult trade-offs; junior champions outscoring senior champions (which will be even more visible given the ISU's intent to promote junior skating more)....

After Valieva, I accept that the age minimum needed to be raised to a point where all skaters had accountability for failed drug tests. I would have changed the age limit to 16 by the January 1 preceding the Olympics/Worlds.

This is better than doing nothing, but I'm not thrilled with the outcome. I understand why the USFS proposed what they did. They're rightfully fearful that the net impact of the age limits will be a bunch of Tonia Kwiatkowskis competing against slightly older Valievas, still trained under the same methods.
 

starrynight

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On the flip side, plenty of countries simply do not allow homeschooling in a way that accommodates elite training. And that makes all day heavy training loads simply not possible for school age athletes.

I think this has been discussed before as a barrier to some athletes. Those ones who come from countries that require school attendance.
 

Trillian

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In terms of the injuries side of things, even if the ISU takes everything a step further and bans junior skaters from including quad jumps in their programs (both junior boys and girls, for the sake of this argument), it's going to be impossible to stop the technically advanced to be practicing these jumps and/or pushing to learn more difficult elements so that they are 'senior-ready'.

Of course kids are still going to be attempting quads, but this change does reduce the incentive to overtrain quads (or whatever other elements might be leading to injury) at a young age. The kids can also take more time to learn sustainable technique instead of rushing jumps that they can’t really rotate into a program. There will - by necessity - be more focus on having a healthy post-puberty body, rather than rushing to do everything before puberty hits. It doesn’t fix every single problem, but it’s something.

It's a touchy subject for many here, but constant injuries have been a thing in this sport long before quad jumps came in, and retiring shortly after graduating high school (because of wanting to focus on college and/or a different career path) is also something not that unique.

Quitting skating to focus on college is fine; quitting skating because you need a hip replacement at 20 is not.

And a lot of things have been “a thing,” as you put it, for a long time because of the way our society commodifies the bodies of girls and women in particular. That doesn’t mean we can’t recognize those things are a problem and do a better job of protecting kids in the future.

On the flip side, plenty of countries simply do not allow homeschooling in a way that accommodates elite training. And that makes all day heavy training loads simply not possible for school age athletes.

I think this has been discussed before as a barrier to some athletes. Those ones who come from countries that require school attendance.

A lot of those are also countries where virtually all kids are involved in sports, but only recreationally, because the widespread cultural opinion is that children shouldn’t be professional athletes. And honestly, all of that is probably a lot healthier than whatever we’re doing.
 

soogar

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3,125
On the flip side, plenty of countries simply do not allow homeschooling in a way that accommodates elite training. And that makes all day heavy training loads simply not possible for school age athletes.

I think this has been discussed before as a barrier to some athletes. Those ones who come from countries that require school attendance.
As much as I admire the Russian athletes, I often wonder about what they are doing for education. Majority of them seem to default to coaching. Recently, a few like Aliona K, Anna Scherbakova, Semenenko and Mark K have expressed interests in professions and activities outside of skating and sound like they are pursuing well rounded educations. Other athletes, like T&M, seem like they sacrificed education to pursue pairs seriously. It's one thing if an athlete wants to become a coach, however it seems unfortunate that this seems to be the default choice because the athlete did not have the time/energy to pursue education. The prize money in figure skating is paltry compared to sports like tennis, where it may be worth the sacrifice to have financial security. The ISU relies a lot on Federation/skater subsidizing the sport. The training for the majority of people costs a lot more than what they earn.
 

screech

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Does the Russian system have sports-focused/sympathetic schools like I know Canada (and I'm sure USA) has. I know that at Mariposa there is a high school next door, and back in the day when I knew people training there many of the skaters went to that school, which had schedules such as classes in the morning, skating in the afternoon (in place of gym and likely an elective). Even smaller cities where there are OHL hockey teams have basically 'designated' high schools that are sympathetic to the player schedules to allow for practice and travel for games.
 

VGThuy

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As much as I admire the Russian athletes, I often wonder about what they are doing for education. Majority of them seem to default to coaching. Recently, a few like Aliona K, Anna Scherbakova, Semenenko and Mark K have expressed interests in professions and activities outside of skating and sound like they are pursuing well rounded educations. Other athletes, like T&M, seem like they sacrificed education to pursue pairs seriously. It's one thing if an athlete wants to become a coach, however it seems unfortunate that this seems to be the default choice because the athlete did not have the time/energy to pursue education. The prize money in figure skating is paltry compared to sports like tennis, where it may be worth the sacrifice to have financial security. The ISU relies a lot on Federation/skater subsidizing the sport. The training for the majority of people costs a lot more than what they earn.
That seems to be up to the individual. Those who want to pursue education will do so at any age, and if means is an issue, it would always be an issue no matter how long they competed. There are some who would rather stick with the skill they specialize in and hopefully they can turn it into a career even after competition/touring. Others move on and do other things. It’s really a personal thing left up to the person.
 

Sylvia

TBD
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81,152
Tara Lipinski tweeted this yesterday: https://twitter.com/taralipinski/status/1534695329114624001
Raising the age limit is a quick fix that will deny athletes a performance on the biggest stage, and ultimately not make a difference in stopping the abuse. These young athletes will still be skating under this broken system, you just won’t see them til they are 17.

CBC News article titled Raising competition age for figure skaters not enough to combat abusive coaches, former skaters [Bezic, Osmond, Othman] say: https://www.cbc.ca/sports/olympics/...ing-age-rise-welcome-zero-tolerance-1.6482326
 

clairecloutier

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I'm a bit surprised to see Kristi and Tara weigh in with these takes after the decision. Surely, the time to speak up was before the decision; it's been on the table since January. And Tara would, or should, know that in her capacity as a commentator.

I'm not certain how closely Kristi really follows the competitive sport at this point. There hasn't been any particular indication that she really does follow it closely. And she's usually very politic and middle-of-the-road in all her public comments, so this response from her makes me wonder how familiar she is with the debate and the overall situation.
 

Trillian

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I'm a bit surprised to see Kristi and Tara weigh in with these takes after the decision. Surely, the time to speak up was before the decision; it's been on the table since January. And Tara would, or should, know that in her capacity as a commentator.

I’m a little surprised by Kristi’s response, but not at all by Tara’s. It’s pretty on-brand for her, despite everything.

For those who are arguing against the age minimum because it doesn’t do enough, I don’t think they realize that most of us have a “yes, and” attitude. Of course we need to do more, but this is something. I’m not always a huge Sandra Bezic fan, but I really, really appreciate her perspective in the article @Sylvia linked above.
 

Rukia

A Southern, hot-blooded temperamental individual
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I mean, they're not wrong in that there are still systemic issues that are not addressed by an age change. However, it's better than doing absolutely nothing.

So basically I agree with @Trillian haha. It won't fix every problem, but it also is a step in the right direction.
 

Debbie S

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Right, this is one step. There need to be others and I hope TPTB continue to make changes that will protect athletes. But it has to happen at both the ISU and nat'l fed level. And the ISU as a collective body needs to stop worshipping Russia. The vote on the "Extraordinary Events" proposal showed how many member feds are afraid of RusFed.
 

LeafOnTheWind

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The ISU still needs to address scoring emphasis that allows nothing but jumps at a young age to win. They also need to have a system in place to see if athlete health is endangered because of any particular scoring emphasis. It requires qualitative and quantitative data. I don't care about more for the sake of more if it means we are just watching abuse.
 

millyskate

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On the flip side, plenty of countries simply do not allow homeschooling in a way that accommodates elite training. And that makes all day heavy training loads simply not possible for school age athletes.

I think this has been discussed before as a barrier to some athletes. Those ones who come from countries that require school attendance.
Really? France doesn't allow homeschooling aside from exceptional circumstances for instance but it has many "sport study" or "music study" etc school curriculums for children who need the time. These options are available in all sizeable towns. Most countries have some equivalent.
 

LeafOnTheWind

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Double posting but all this reminds me of a prior Winter Olympics for the luge competition. I'm sorry I don't remember which one but the commentators were saying the Olympic track was designed to be too hard. It was fine for the most experienced competitors in medal range but the Olympics were meant to be inclusive. Track designers should have focused on the health danger to the lowest ranked competitors. There were more crashes and injuries there because the track was too difficult.

I'm ok if the smallest percentage of the best can't push themselves and get an outrageous lead in points if it means standing on the bodies of others. If they want to do quad axel, for example, then they still can. But let's not leave the rest too far behind to make up for one element out of everything else. The concept of balanced programs needs to come back no matter how many arguments it takes. The quad axel and setup is still just seconds out of a complete program.

ETA: Everyone likes different things from skating. Would a weighted score component work? Jumps can only be x% of your total score? Spins another y%? Would this help keep a balance or do they just need to monitor and balance the base points and GOE better?
 
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MacMadame

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Eh, @tony, I'm not so concerned with the attrition as the type of skating that is being rewarded. I do think that this age increase will help address that issue simply because skaters with poor technique won't necessarily make it out of the junior ranks (due in part to injuries) and we'll see better foundational skating with more power and deeper edges. Maybe it's a fantasy world I'm living in but the longer skaters have to remain in juniors, the more time they have to work on more than just jumps.
I don't like the idea that skaters will just burn out in Juniors instead of Seniors. These are kids after all.

OTOH, I don't agree with people who say "oh they will just practice them anyway" because we have lots of examples in the past where skaters are working on harder jumps, say a 3X in the days when the women didn't have Quads, but because they knew they aren't going to put them in a program any time soon they weren't pounding on them day in and day out. They were learning them only for body memory and not to be competition ready.

I think the first couple of years we will have skaters already on the "beat my body up to get quads as young as possible" camp continue on that path because it is what they know. But new skaters coming up will adjust to the rules as they are now, not the rules that used to be.

The ISU might eventually ban quadruple jumps or redefine the sport in such a way that practicing them won't be worth the effort.
I hope not. It's a sport after all and should progress technically.

A lot of those are also countries where virtually all kids are involved in sports, but only recreationally, because the widespread cultural opinion is that children shouldn’t be professional athletes. And honestly, all of that is probably a lot healthier than whatever we’re doing.
Honestly, I agree with them. For my own children, I did not encourage them to pursue adult dreams as kids. I had a very talented actor who could have been a professional as a teen but I did nothing to make that happen. She wanted to move to LA to pursue her acting career at age 15 and I said, "No."

And yet, I watch figure skating. But when I started watching there were figures and it was different. My philosophy is that I watch what is put out there and I appreciate what is put out there. But I don't put a lot of attention into the Junior level and have no objection to making the skaters be older before they hit the Senior ranks. I will root for whoever is there and there will be plenty of skaters to root for without the 15- and 16-year-olds.

ETA: Everyone likes different things from skating. Would a weighted score component work? Jumps can only be x% of your total score? Spins another y%? Or do they just need to balance the base points and GOE better?
Since PCS are already weighted, I am not sure what you are suggesting.
 

VGThuy

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I think @mpal2 meant that PCS should be weighed even heavier. I wonder if that and/or having bigger separations between the skaters in PCS (if it's deserved) would be better. Like no more increments of 0.25 (10-9.75-9.50-9.25-9.0-8.75-etc.) but instead like 10-9.5-9.0-8.5-8.0-etc. I have no idea.
 

LeafOnTheWind

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I really don't know. I said scores but I probably mean scale of values on the elements. So let's say current scale of values with a quad axel in your program ends up 70% points from jumps and 30% everything else in your total base elements (spins, steps, etc). I feel like we are weighing jumps too much in the total element score there. So is there a way to set the base scores of values so jumps don't exceed 50% of your total element base even as skaters are attempting harder jumps? I don't know the answer.
 

Karen-W

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I really don't know. I said scores but I probably mean scale of values on the elements. So let's say current scale of values with a quad axel in your program ends up 70% points from jumps and 30% everything else in your total base elements (spins, steps, etc). I feel like we are weighing jumps too much in the total element score there. So is there a way to set the base scores of values so jumps don't exceed 50% of your total element base even as skaters are attempting harder jumps? I don't know the answer.
Well, they could reduce the number of jumping passes allowed in the programs.
 

VGThuy

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Maybe they could limit the LPs to four of five jumping passes but still allow 3 combos/sequences, and maybe instead of one three-jump combo or sequence and two two-jump combos/seq, maybe have it be one two-jump combo/seq, one two-to-three jump combo/seq, and one three-to-five jump combo.

I also think it's weird that the spins are still so far behind jumps in terms of base value (and step sequences too). Maybe they should up the spin BV but have more stringent rules for execution. I also think it's strange that the SP and LP have the same number of spins.

ETA: @Karen-W, you posted while I was typing, but JINX!
 

LeafOnTheWind

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I also think it's weird that the spins are still so far behind jumps in terms of base value (and step sequences too). Maybe they should up the spin BV but have more stringent rules for execution. I also think it's strange that the SP and LP have the same number of spins.
:lol: This was probably the easiest way of getting where my brain was heading.
 

Karen-W

How long do we have to wait for GP assignments?
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Btw, I agree with @VGThuy about the spin BV and somehow making the levels more stringent/difficult to achieve. And adding another spin element at the expense of a jumping pass would not upset me at all.
 

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