PHUKET, Thailand (AP) — No 15-year-old figure skaters will be allowed to compete at the 2026 Olympics following the controversy surrounding Russian national champion Kamila Valieva at this year’s Beijing Games.
A new age limit for figure skaters at senior international events was passed Tuesday by the International Skating Union in a 110-16 vote that will raise the minimum age to 17 before the next Winter Olympics in Milan-Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.
“This is a very important decision,” ISU president Jan Dijkema said. “I would say a very historic decision.”
The limit will be phased in with 16-year-olds allowed to compete in the 2023-24 season, rising to 17 the season after, which is the last before the Olympics.
The change was coming even before figure skating at the Beijing Olympics was dominated by the emotional stress put on the 15-year-old Valieva. She was the favorite to take individual gold, after helping the Russians win the team title, before her positive doping test from December was belatedly revealed during the Olympics.
The teenager was allowed to train under intense scrutiny as a Court of Arbitration for Sport hearing was prepared that allowed her to compete pending the full investigation in Russia. That is still ongoing.
However, her main routine was filled with errors and she dropped to fourth place. She was then criticized rink-side by her coach, Eteri Tutberidze.
The ISU drafted an age-limit proposal saying “burnout, disordered eating, and long-term consequences of injury” were a risk to young teenage skaters who are pushed to perform more quadruple jumps.
The governing body said it had “a duty of care to protect the physical and psychological health and safety of all athletes including elite adolescent athlete(s).”