Balancing act: Skating officials moved to find better harmony between artistry and athleticism in the sport

Balancing act: Skating officials moved to find better harmony between artistry and athleticism in the sport

Quadruple jumps were limited, the practice of backloading programs to gain bonus points was severely curtailed, and neither a major conflict-of-interest issue nor raising the minimum age for senior competitions was even approved for discussion.

Those were the major takeaways from the biennial International Skating Union congress last week in Seville, Spain.

But the impact of what did -- and did not -- happen at the 57th ISU Ordinary Congress will likely be far less significant than the ramifications of ISU Communication No. 2168 (pdf), issued 10 days before the congress began.

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Proposal to raise minimum age for senior events brings figure skating back to the future

Proposal to raise minimum age for senior events brings figure skating back to the future

Jeroen Prins long has been deeply involved in figure skating, with a wide range of expertise.

Prins, 54, was a national-level skater in the Netherlands who now is an international referee and technical controller in singles, a technical controller in pairs and a judge in ice dance.  He holds several positions in the figure skating section of the Dutch Skating Federation and is a candidate for membership on the International Skating Union’s singles and pairs technical committee.  He is a figure skating commentator for Eurosport Netherlands.

And Prins had been thinking long, hard and deeply about the issue of minimum age in senior figure skating before writing the urgent proposal to raise it to 17 that the Dutch federation submitted to the ISU Congress that begins June 4 in Seville, Spain.

“I has this idea in mind already at the start of this past Olympic season, but I wanted to see how everything unfolded,” Prins said in an email.

What unfolded was the second youngest women’s Olympic champion in history, 15-year-old Alina Zagitova of Russia.  And the top two women (girls?) at the World Junior Championships, also both Russians, were 13 and 14.  And the top three women at the Junior Grand Prix Final, all Russians (the top two were the same as at junior worlds), were 13, 14, 13.

One of those three, world junior champion Alexandra Trusova, did two quadruple jumps in her winning free skate at the world juniors.  Since then, video has been posted of another Russian – Anna Shcherbakova, 14, who did not compete in the 2017 world juniors or the 2017 Junior Grand Prix series – doing a clean quad lutz-triple toe-triple loop combination in practice.

So Prins decided the time was right to ask that the ISU raise the minimum age for seniors in all disciplines from 15 to 17 as of the 2020-21 season, with the two-year wait designed to prevent any 15- or 16-year-olds already in seniors from being forced back to the junior level.

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The Medvedeva saga: Orser on her ex-coach's reaction, plus money, choreography. . .& more

The Medvedeva saga: Orser on her ex-coach's reaction, plus money, choreography. . .& more

Evgenia Medvedeva’s stunning announcement Monday that she was leaving her longtime coach, Eteri Tutberidze, in Moscow to work with Canadian coach Brian Orser in Toronto continues to make headlines in Russia and both dominate and invigorate Internet and social media discussions about figure skating.

After writing about Medvedeva’s move Monday in an icenetwork story featuring my interview with Orser, there remained many facets of the story to be covered.  Here are several:

When emotions run high. . .again

Orser understands the emotions that led to Tutberidze’s critical comments about Medvedeva when the Russian coach learned Medvedeva was ending their working relationship after 11 years.

Orser had reacted similarly about Yuna Kim’s decision to leave him after she won the 2010 Olympics.

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Orser on newest star student Medvedeva: "There is so much more she can do."

Orser on newest star student Medvedeva: "There is so much more she can do."

Brian Orser knows the period after the Olympics brings changes in coach-skater relationships, so he anticipated getting inquires from some athletes who might be interested in working with him.

But he never expected the April 2 text message from 2018 Olympic silver medalist and two-time world champion Evgenia Medvedeva of Russia.

"I was totally stunned," Orser said.

Orser immediately called Tracy Wilson, one of his co-coaches at the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club, and said, "You're not going to believe this."

Medvedeva's original message indicated only that she would like a private meeting with Orser later in April in South Korea, where she was skating in a show, "LG ThinQ Ice Fantasia," that Orser had helped organize and would attend.

"I kind of figured what it was about," Orser said by telephone Monday, after Medvedeva's statement via the Figure Skating Federation of Russia announced she was leaving coach Eteri Tutberidze's training group in Moscow to begin working with Orser in Toronto.

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An old debate about the young in figure skating heats up again: is it time to raise the minimum age for seniors?

An old debate about the young in figure skating heats up again: is it time to raise the minimum age for seniors?

Is it time to raise the age minimum for singles figure skaters in senior international competition?

Rafael Arutunian thinks so. The coach of the only two U.S. skaters to win senior World Championship medals since 2009 brought up the idea unprompted during our lengthy recent conversation at his training base south of Los Angeles.

For a number of reasons, including health, career longevity and competitive equity, Arutunian favors a minimum age of 18 for senior men and women rather than the current 15.

“Everyone now talks about jumping too much and people starting to damage themselves,” Arutunian said.  “How do you want to stop that?  In my mind, there is only one way: not allow them to compete (at seniors) until 18.

“If I am 12 years old, and I know real money is after 18, do you think I will do too many quads, or I will do just enough quads to win and save my body for later?”

Several other coaches and skaters contacted by phone, email or text message, including Alexei Mishin of Russia, Brian Orser of Canada and Tom Zakrajsek of the U.S., agreed with Arutunian, especially where female skaters are concerned.

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