AGE NOT INTERFERENCE?
The Congress of the International Ice Skating Union (ISU), held in the summer of Spanish Seville, did not consider the issue submitted by the Netherlands Ice Skating Union to raise the lower age limit for skaters participating in adult ISU competitions from 15 to 17 years old. The topic arose shortly before Congress in the form of an urgent proposal, but most delegates voted against including it on the agenda.
Nevertheless, this issue was actively discussed in the media. The IFC magazine tried to figure out the essence, taking as a basis women’s single skating.
Since the first world championship in figure skating, which was held in St. Petersburg in 1896, figure skating as a sport has undergone qualitative changes. The rules and refereeing changed, elements became more complicated and improved, which made completely different demands on both coaches who trained athletes and figure skaters.
At the dawn of the International Skating Union (1892), the question of the age of athletes was not so relevant. They talked about this much later, in the mid-90s of the twentieth century, when figure skating began to rapidly rejuvenate. In order to distinguish between junior and adult sports, since 1996 the lower age level of participants in adult championships has been raised from 12 to 15 years. At the same time, however, it was clarified that this decision does not apply to skaters who have already participated in ISU championships. It was this addition that allowed 13-year-old American Tara Lipinski to compete in the adult world championship in 1997 and win it – a year earlier the athlete had already participated in the world championship. In 1998, Tara Lipinski won Olympic gold at the Nagano Olympics.
Until 2014, the situation in figure skating can be called a transition period. If athletes from 15 years old were allowed to participate in adult ISU championships, then those who did not reach this age could participate in the stages of the adult Grand Prix series. In the 2005/2006 season, Japanese Mao Asada made her debut at the adult Grand Prix, selected for the finals, where she was ahead of more experienced skaters, including Irina Slutskaya. But the athlete could not participate in the Turin Olympics, since on July 1 of the current season she was not 15.
In 2012, the ISU Congress in Kuala Lumpur canceled all existing “exceptions to the rules”. The adult ISU championships, as well as the stages of the Grand Prix series and the Olympic Games were allowed to skaters, who at the beginning of the season, July 1, turned 15 years old. This decision entered into force on June 1, 2014.
The fifteen-year age limit set by the ISU was determined by the desire not only to draw clear boundaries between junior and adult sports, but also by the desire to extend the champion’s sports career. The reason was that the newly-made winners of the Games, for example, Tara Lipinski, Ilya Kulik, Sarah Hughes, left amateur sports soon or soon after the Olympic Games.
The current situation put forward new tasks for the national federations – the “reproduction” of competitive athletes, the creation of a training system, the development of the sport. One of such ways back in Soviet times was proposed by the famous coach Stanislav Zhuk. He developed a program for conducting competitions for younger singles according to the system of not triathlon (skate short and arbitrary programs), but triathlon (add the execution of individual elements – jumps, cascades of jumps, a combination of rotations, track steps). In 2001, the so-called “special program” was launched by the FFKKR. And since that time, the championship of Russia for young men and women of younger age was held just like that, including the “Beetle Memorial in the special program”.
The result of such a systematic approach, based on a more thorough selection of athletes, closer attention to individual elements and the program as a whole, was the emergence of young talents – Adelina Sotnikova, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, Arthur Gachinsky, and later Julia Lipnitskaya. Given the short bench of domestic single skating in those years, the FFKKR agreed that the lower age limit for admitting skaters to the country’s adult championships, in which athletes 14 years and older participated, was dropped to 12 years. Two years after the Olympics in Turin in the 2008/2009 season, the 12-year-old junior Adelina Sotnikova won her first adult national championship, her peer Elizaveta Tuktamysheva became the silver medalist. After 3 years, in 2012, the student of Eteri Tutberidze – 13-year-old Yulia Lipnitskaya wins the junior championship of the country, before that she won the silver of the adult championship of Russia. In the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Lipnitskaya brings the Russian national team the first gold medal in women’s figure skating in team competitions, and Adeline Sotnikova in personal.
The successes of one and the other did not become a momentary result for Russian women’s skating. By that time, new athletes had already declared themselves – Elena Radionova, Anna Pogorilaya, later Evgenia Medvedeva, Maria Sotskova and, finally, Alina Zagitova …