Proposed rule changes divide figure skating world

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Officials from the Dutch International Skating Union have asked the International Skating Union to raise the minimum eligibility age of senior figure skaters to 17.

Currently the governing body allows skaters aged 15 and above to enter senior events.

If the rule is adopted, the likes of Alina Zagitova could be excluded from future Olympic competitions.

Unfair advantage

The Netherlands officials believe that skaters who have not yet hit adolescence have an unfair size advantage over their adult counterparts.

Their shorter, lighter frames are supposedly more conducive to landing complex tricks.

However, this notion polarises opinion in the skating world, given the number of Olympic gold medallists who have been under the age of 16.

In the late 90s, the ISU raised the minimum age for participating at major figure skating events to 15, after US skater Tara Lipinski won the 1997 world championship at the age of 14, becoming the youngest skater to claim the title.

At 15 years of age, current Olympic champion Alina Zagitova would have been prevented from claiming the gold medal in PyeongChang.

The Russian blew the competition away with what many believed was one of the most technically difficult program in the history of ladies figure skating.

But Russian conveyor belt of youthful talent wasn’t done there. Fast-forward one month and Zagitova already had a new rival on the ice, who was aged just 13.

Alexandra Trusova grabbed headlines after becoming the first female skater to land two quadruple jumps in one program.

The magnificent feat happened en route to the gold medal at the ISU World Junior Championships, where she recorded the highest technical component score in ladies’ figure skating history.

Trusova’s rapid emergence reopened minimum age-debate with Canadian star coach Brian Orser suggesting that she might not cope with the same moves once she had become an adult.

It remains to be seen whether the ISU will increase the minimum competing age in senior competitions, but it will surely be a hot topic at the governing bodies’ Ordinary Congress this June.

Trusova turns 14 in June and would be eligible to compete at Beijing 2022 even if the rule change goes through.

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Author: Andrew Binner
Andrew is a former desert-dwelling news reporter and producer at the Olympic Channel.