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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G.0.A.T. in men's skating? Let the debate begin

G.0.A.T. in men's skating?  Let the debate begin

GANGNEUNG, South Korea - And now for one of those entertaining, irresoluble questions with answers certain to provoke incendiary reactions from supporters of the athletes involved:

Did becoming the first man since Dick Button in 1948 and 1952 to win consecutive Olympic gold medals make Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu the greatest men's singles skater of all time (aka the G.O.A.T.)?

Or should that unofficial title still be bestowed on Button?

Or on Russia's Evgeni Plushenko, the only man since World War II to win individual singles medals at three Olympics (silver in 2002, gold in 2006, silver in 2010) while contributing significantly to the quadruple jump revolution and having to adapt to two entirely different judging systems?

And let's not forget Gillis Grafström of Sweden, who won three straight Olympic golds (1920, '24, '28) and then a silver in 1932.

Comparing achievements from different eras in the sport ultimately is a futile exercise, no matter how much fun it is.

"There's no common frame of reference," said Sandra Bezic, a 1972 Canadian Olympian, noted choreographer and longtime TV commentator.

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