beijing (ap): One by one, Russian teenage figure skaters took to the ice for free skating at the Beijing Games, one by one attempting the four-revolution jumps that are common in men’s competition.
Beijing may be the last Olympics where a woman attempts a quad.
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The quad jumps that sent Russian world champion Anna Shcherbakova to the gold medal and teammate Alexandra Trusova to silver, much to her chagrin, along with the failed attempts that took out 15-year-old Kamila Valieva, of medals altogether could be a thing of the past for the 2026 games in italy.
read more: unsung champion shcherbakova wins figure skating gold as newcomer valieva collapses
That’s because more and more people are pushing for figure skating’s age limit to be raised above 16 following Valieva’s monumental collapse Thursday night. Women’s mature bodies make it much more difficult to land a jump than they might in their teens. no woman over the age of 17 has ever landed a quad in competition.
Take the case of alysa liu. The 16-year-old American, who finished seventh at the Beijing Games, was able to perform the four-revolution jumps until two years ago, but stopped trying after a growth spurt.
even the international olympic committee’s diplomatic president, thomas bach, said on friday that he was “very disturbed when i saw the competition on tv. I saw the pressure on (valieva), it was beyond my imagination for a 15-year-old girl.
“Watching her struggle, trying to regain her composure, you can see the immense mental stress,” Bach continued. “Perhaps I would have preferred to leave this story behind.”
maybe she shouldn’t have been there in the first place.
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Shcherbakova and Trusova are both 17 years old, and some have suggested that that be the requirement for figure skating at the Olympics.
Others are pushing to turn 18, the age at which men and women are legally adults in the US. uu. and much of the world, and when their bodies are more fully developed and able to withstand the shocks of quad jumps.
As it stands, that’s the age when most of Russia’s quadruple queens retire.
when asked if trusova would continue to compete after the beijing games, she simply replied, “we’ll see.”
not that it probably matters to her coach, eteri tutberidze, who has come under fire during these olympics, first for valieva’s failed drug test in december and then for his cruel treatment of his teenage prodigy on thursday at night.
The three Russian women who competed in Beijing are about to reach the “tutberidze expiration date,” the age at which the controversial coach historically casts off older students with an eye to the future. She will now turn her attention to Sofia Akateva and Adeliia Petrosian, 14, who have already landed quads in competitions.
or more likely, an 11 or 12 year old at tutberidze camp who no one has heard of yet, but who will hit the current age limit of 15 just in time to compete in the upcoming winter games in Italy.
Unless the age limit is changed, of course.
There are no official age limits to compete in the Olympics, and 13-year-old skaters even competed in the Tokyo Games last summer. but many other sports in the winter games have higher age limits: alpine skiers must be 17 or older to compete, and biathlon competitors must turn 22 in the same year as the competition.
Perhaps the closest comparison to figure skating, however, is gymnastics, due to the shocks to developing bodies from the repeated jumps in practice. The International Gymnastics Federation ruled in 2000 that gymnasts must be 16 years of age or older in the year of the Olympics to compete, a limit that now applies to world championships as well.
Increasing the age limit on figure skating would hurt Russia’s factory of teenage Olympians. it can also extend the careers of figure skaters whose developing bodies are unable to land a quad.
kaori sakamoto won the bronze medal at the beijing games without a quad in her arsenal. Instead, the 21-year-old from Kobe, Japan relied on experience, artistry and precision, not just daring, to complete a clean free skate and pass valieva.
“In terms of my expressions and my skating skills, maybe they’re finally being recognized. but that only has its limits,” said sakamoto. “In terms of technical merit, I need to win as many points as I can. Unless I do that, I won’t be able to compete against Roc’s skaters. that’s what I felt on the Olympic stage this time.”
Maybe that won’t be the case next time.
Increasing the age limit, particularly to 18, would virtually eliminate the quad from top-level competition. And without them in competition, coaches like tutberidze would no longer have the incentive to push their students’ young, developing bodies to the point of physical collapse in order to learn them.
It would also open the door for sakamoto and others to continue performing well into their 20s, allowing fans (those who will have survived the scandal-marred beijing games) a chance to see them compete in more of an Olympics.
“Four years from now I’ll be 25. Even when I’m 25, I feel like I’ll still be able to jump,” said sakamoto. “Even before I qualified for these Olympics, I told myself that I am going to work hard so that I can go to the next Olympics as well. so when it comes to the kite-curtain games four years from now, yeah, that’s in my sights.”
perhaps another medal, and a gold one, could also be in the offing by then.