The International Olympic Committee has recommended that International Federations address minimum age limits within their sport.
The recommendation came from the IOC Executive Board as the qualification system for the Paris 2024 Games was approved, with International Federations being advised to make “appropriate adjustments to their regulations.”
The issue of competitor age became a major talking point during this year’s Beijing Winter Olympics after 15-year-old Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva tested positive for a prohibited substance but was allowed to continue competing as a Court of Arbitration for Sport Panel ruled that banning her from competition would cause “irreparable harm.”
Valieva won gold in the team event but finished fourth in the individual skate following a series of falls which many put down to the additional pressure and stress that came from the international media once her positive test was revealed. IOC President Thomas Bach said she must have been under immense pressure and criticised her team by saying coach Eteri Tutberidze had “created a chilling atmosphere.”
The International Skating Union has announced that it is considering raising the age limit from 15 to 17 after receiving data from its Medical Commission which suggested the age increase could better protect both the physical and mental health of athletes. Both the Dutch and Norwegian associations had previously proposed increasing the age limit but nothing was ever adopted.
The issue requires a fine balancing act by the IOC as they wish to appeal to a younger audience, evidenced by the introduction of skateboarding to the Olympic programme, whilst also ensuring young athletes are protected. The average age of skateboarders at the Tokyo Games was just over 14 with gold medallist Momiji Nishiya of Japan being only 13. The youngest Olympian at Tokyo 2020 was 12-year-old Syrian table tennis player Hend Zaza who became the youngest Olympian since 1968.