Threat to Russian figure skating prodigies as Norway makes push for new limit again

Days after a 15-year-old Russian sensation and Winter Olympics favorite set a new world record, Norway has resubmitted a proposal for the age limit for adult skaters in the discipline to be raised by two years.

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Russia has a long legacy of producing figure skaters who can compete on the world stage from a precociously young age, the latest of whom is Kamila Valieva.

At 15, Valieva set a record-breaking short program on Friday at the Russian Grand Prix, eclipsing the previous best by almost two points.

Valieva is one of the strongest competitors set to take part in the Beijing Winter Olympics in February.

Under proposals that have been resubmitted by Norway, though, figure skaters of her age may not be allowed to compete at the Olympics and other senior showpieces in years to come.

The Norwegian Skating Association (NSA) is bidding to raise the age limit for figure skating with plans that will be considered at the congress of the International Skating Union (ISU) in 2022.

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Norway's previous attempt to lift the age limit, which made the congress but was postponed because of the pandemic, will not be revisited because the congress will only debate proposals put forward after December 1 2021.

The leadership of the NSA confirmed to Match TV that it wants to raise the limit to 17 for women and men in all ISU disciplines including figure skating and 16 for dance duets and sports couples.

The changes would be introduced from the 2023/2024 season and would not immediately affect any skater who has already participated at the European Championships, the Four Continents Championships or the World Championships.

The minimum current age is 15. This year's congress will take place in Phuket, Thailand.

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Russian former Olympic champion Alexei Yagudin mocked the proposals as "very funny."

"Norway, do you even have skaters?" the four-time world champion asked, via translation. "Maybe we'd better ban asthmatics in biathlon and skiing?" 

Two-time Olympic champion and coaching great Evgeni Plushenko is more receptive to the debate and is principally keen for athletes to have longevity over immediacy.

“Let it be discussed," he told Russian RT. "We have a guide for that. I don't want to get involved in this story.

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"Will this affect many of my students? This means that they will continue to train and perform further in juniors.

"Sports life does not end there. You have to [compete] for a long time. I am for longevity in sports... we have a leadership, let him make a decision – this is my position."

Legendary coach Tatiana Tarasova is more bullish. “Nothing can stop our girls from winning and skating just as amazingly," she promised Championat.

"It would be better if the Norwegians tried to educate someone than to put forward any proposals.

"In Norway, there are no skaters at all, not a single person – what proposals can we talk about? Our girls win and will win at any age because they are the best."

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