FanDuel - WFBC

January 02, 2006

Great Skater, Terrible Timing: Mao Asada, the only female figure skater to land two triple axels in a competition, won't be allowed to compete in the Winter Olympics. She turned 15 on Sept. 25, two months and two days too late to meet the International Skating Union's minimum age requirement. Already described as the best female jumper in the history of the sport, Asada defeated world champion Irina Slutskaya at the Grand Prix in December.

posted by rcade to other at 08:05 AM - 32 comments

Well, the age rule -- which Japan voted for, BTW -- is meant to prevent young and physically immature skaters from attempting too many jumps. According to this editorial, "The risk of long-term physical damage from such repetitive pounding is well documented." But obviously she's doing the jumping anyway, whether it's good for her or not; part of the problem is that the age limit for senior competition (e.g. the Grand Prix) is a year younger than it is for the Olympics, and part of the problem is that the judging system even for juniors puts a lot of emphasis on jumping. In that light the rule looks a bit silly.

posted by Amateur at 08:50 AM on January 02

B-S

posted by boatman at 09:29 AM on January 02

That is a load of crap. Especially since she will be 19 when the Olympics come back. Going by the laws of nature, that means her body will have changed and who knows if she will be as good as she is now.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 10:24 AM on January 02

YYM: It seems unfair to change the rule now. Perhaps this is something they should have considered when they made the rule in the first place.

posted by blarp at 10:45 AM on January 02

Blarp is exactly right, they really can't change the rule now. boatman, welcome, but were you referring to my comment, or one of rcade's links, or what?

posted by Amateur at 10:49 AM on January 02

It's one of the unfortunate byproducts of having a career arc of less than four years. The sweet spot of your career might not line up with when they actually hold the Olympic Games. If she continues to be this good, she'll just have to settle for winning some world championships and scoring some endorsement cash and a spot in the Ice Capades. And hey, I know 19 is when most of us trade our walkers for wheelchairs, but 19-year-olds win skating championships all over the place. Maybe "Geritol Jenny" Asada will be able to suck it up one last time and win one for the old days in the distant future Olympiad era of 2010. Personally, I blame her parents. They could have met and birthed her earlier, but noooooo, they had to take their sweet time. See what procrastination does, people? Let this be a lesson to you-all. The future skating champion you don't conceive today may miss the Olympics of tomorrow.

posted by chicobangs at 12:32 PM on January 02

So rules are rules and she may not be able to compete in this olympics, there is the possibility of the next if she can stay competetive that long, plus she has a couple years worth of world titles she can pick up along the way

posted by Coach_B at 12:39 PM on January 02

Let this be a lesson to you-all. The future skating champion you don't conceive today may miss the Olympics of tomorrow. posted by chicobangs at 12:32 PM CST on January 2 skydivedad and I will get right on that! Let's see if we start today - 9 months + 15 years = Sept. 2021. Nope we are too late they would have to be 15 by July 1, 2021. Oh well better luck next time.

posted by skydivemom at 12:41 PM on January 02

skydivemom, you would be right on target for 2022 winter Olympics, actually. Get on it! rcade, thanks for the great posts these last days.

posted by qbert72 at 12:46 PM on January 02

It does devalue the Olympic competition when the best athlete isn't there. I don't believe I just commented on a figure skating post.

posted by Steve-o at 05:38 PM on January 02

Wow, two triples in one competition? I can't wait to see that. Figure skaters are soooo elegant and beautiful, least the females are anyway. Guys should go play hockey. Lol...hope that wasn't politically INcorrect(too late now)!!! Back to the eligibility thing: that's life. We sooo wish to see this girl compete at the Olympics, but we'll just have to wait for another competition. I can hear all the other skaters breathing a sigh of relief.

posted by babooze808 at 01:27 AM on January 03

If you're good enough, you're old enough.

posted by JJ at 04:48 AM on January 03

I agree, JJ. Asada's absence doesn't just hurt her, it hangs an asterisk on the medals given to the other skaters.

posted by rcade at 04:56 AM on January 03

it hangs an asterisk on the medals given to the other skaters Well then the organizers had better order up a whole lot of asterisks! (I wonder if the Turin asterisks will have a hole in the middle?) Almost every sport has an age limit. As an example, for alpine skiing the FIS requires that you turn 15 during the calendar year. In gymnastics women have to turn 16 during the competition year. All of the minimum-age rules are intended to protect the health and well-being of athletes. Superficially, I agree with JJ's statement that "if you're good enough, you're old enough." But I think that if training and competing as an adult is harmul to a child's health, then the federations should be trying to make sure that children don't get good enough until they're old enough. If Asada is allowed to compete in the Grand Prix against older athletes then she is going to train like an older athlete; and if juniors are scored according to their ability to do triple axles then juniors are going to train to do them. What it comes down to is whether figure skating and other early-developing sports have any kind of long-term athlete development plan, that encourages athletes to develop the appropriate skills at the appropriate times. For the ISU, this means setting up an appropriate competition structure. For the national federations, it means proper coaching education. And as an aside, there are lots of other eligibility rules that are not so well-intentioned. For example, in addition to setting a minimum age limit, the ISU also doesn't allow any skater to compete who has competed professionally in an event not sanctioned by the ISU. The men's soccer tournament is (incredibly) limited to players under 23 years of age. Boxing is still limited to amateurs. Etc. There are far fewer of these restrictions than there once were, but they have not been completely eliminated.

posted by Amateur at 08:56 AM on January 03

the best athlete isn't there That's a small stretch. She actually competed at the Japanese nationals and finished second, as noted in rcade's second link. Suspect judging and all that, of course, so take that with a grain of salt; but I don't think she would have gone into the Olympics as the gold-medal favourite. Anyway, that should be irrelevant! Either there should be an age restriction, or there shouldn't. You can't have a rule and then say "well, but if you're good enough to win a medal, then we'll make an exception." The rule has to apply to anybody who's good enough to qualify for the competition.

posted by Amateur at 09:03 AM on January 03

The men's soccer tournament is (incredibly) limited to players under 23 years of age. didn't FIFA make this rule so that the World Cup would remain the premier international soccer event? (yeah, that's right, i said soccer.)

posted by goddam at 09:34 AM on January 03

... I don't think she would have gone into the Olympics as the gold-medal favourite. I think you'd have to consider her as a medal favorite, since jumpers get all the love and she's landed the only triple axel in competition. That's my beef here, not the general premise of an age requirement. Figure skating authorities have allowed the creation of a system that establishes Asada as one of the greatest in her sport -- through other competitions she is allowed to join -- and denied her the Olympics. Age requirements should be uniform across the top levels of a sport.

posted by rcade at 10:16 AM on January 03

didn't FIFA make this rule so that the World Cup would remain the premier international soccer event? Of course they did. But why is that OK? Clearly soccer doesn't feel that they need the Olympics; does the Olympics need a youth soccer tournament? I think that in many cases the IOC gets a bad rap. But in this case it's clear that men's soccer is in the Olympics only because of the money it brings to the IOC, and that's not a good enough reason IMO.

posted by Amateur at 10:23 AM on January 03

I think you'd have to consider her as a medal favorite, since jumpers get all the love and she's landed the only triple axel in competition. rcade, I agree, she would be a favourite for a medal (she's the only skater to do two triples, though, I think). But Steve-o called her 'the best' and I do think that's a little bit of a stretch. Hair-splitting I suppose. That's my beef here, not the general premise of an age requirement. Figure skating authorities have allowed the creation of a system that establishes Asada as one of the greatest in her sport -- through other competitions she is allowed to join -- and denied her the Olympics. Age requirements should be uniform across the top levels of a sport. I agree completely.

posted by Amateur at 10:27 AM on January 03

That's my beef here, not the general premise of an age requirement. Figure skating authorities have allowed the creation of a system that establishes Asada as one of the greatest in her sport -- through other competitions she is allowed to join -- and denied her the Olympics. Age requirements should be uniform across the top levels of a sport. I agree completely. I agree too, but I think we have to also acknowledge the cachet of the Olympics, and the role that it can play in encouraging parents, coaches and agents(!) to make unwise decisions on the behalf of young athletes, and particularly for young female athletes. Although women and girls can participate in almost every sport that men can, the recognition's not the same in most of them, and the sports in which a female athlete has a chance at big-name recognition are many fewer. In two of them, gymnastics and figure skating, there's this ethically difficult problem: very young competitors can accomplish some amazing things, if they do things -- training very hard, maintaining very low body weight -- that are very unhealthy for them at their age. The possibility of stardom, the Olympic medal, the Wheaties box, has proven to be too much of a temptation for many parents in the past -- even parents of girls who never realistically had a chance. I don't know if that's the exact reasoning behind the age requirement in figure skating. If so, it may reflect some wishful thinking: allow them into other major competition, but deny them the five rings, and their parents will suddenly have a rush of common sense to the head. Hard to say. If that is intended as a deterrent, however, Asada's triple axel might seem to indicate that it's not entirely having its desired effect.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 11:15 AM on January 03

Well I think I agree with lbb too, in case I haven't been clear on that. That is, I agree that children should be kept out of adult competition until they are mature enough to do it without damaging their health. And I also agree that an age limit for Olympic eligibility is not enough, by itself, to accomplish that goal.

posted by Amateur at 12:13 PM on January 03

does the Olympics need a youth soccer tournament? Well, yes. Football is always (yes, always) the most popular event at the Olympics, in terms of crowds, world wide interest and the fact that many games are held outside the host city, allowing the rest of the country to participate in the 'spirit' of the Games. The IOC has often tried to get rid of football, but every four years they look at each other, sigh, and submit to FIFA.

posted by owlhouse at 02:29 PM on January 03

Mao Asada is not just a jumper, nor could she be to succeed with the new scoring protocol. I've seen all her Grand Prix stuff but her her long program in the final (which is on tape), and she's strong in all facets of womens' figure skating. Despite what lame brain american commentators say, she's got a spiral that rivals Sasha Cohen's, excellent spins and strong footwork. She definitely can improve as she matures, but she's already got the technical stuff down and the confidence and presence on the ice to be a consistent world competitor.

posted by ursus_comiter at 03:21 PM on January 03

owlhouse, I get that. But all you're really saying is that money makes the world go 'round -- although I'll let you get away with that drivel about 'spirit' ;-) -- and I still don't think that's enough reason. Surely the IOC doesn't 'need' the income from football to survive... the right word is 'greed' I think. Anyway, we should have this discussion somewhere else (yes I know I started it).

posted by Amateur at 07:27 PM on January 03

That is, I agree that children should be kept out of adult competition until they are mature enough to do it without damaging their health. I agree with this also but maybe even 15 isn't a mature enough age. What is with the magical age of 15 - did any of you suddenly become more mature? I know I didn't. If I had a goal I would go to any lengths (no matter how unhealthy) to achieve it. I don't believe common sense has come into play yet in the lives of 15 year olds. In other words they are relying on the parents to make their common sense decisions. If this is the case then why can't they rely on those same parents at 14 and compete.

posted by skydivemom at 08:30 PM on January 03

skydivemom, while there's no magical age of mental and emotional maturity, there are reasonable generalizations that can be made about physical maturity and the age at which an athlete can undergo certain levels of training. I doubt that the age limit is attempting to do anything more than find an age at which athletes are generally physically mature enough for hard training.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 09:00 PM on January 03

Well I'm more concerned with physical maturity -- can the skeleton and the muscles (and the supporting endocrine, energy, etc. systems) handle the strain without irreversible damage? The issue of the 'magical age' is just a practical consideration. Obviously people mature at different rates, and there are reliable physiological markers that you could use to determine whether a girl was "mature enough" or not. But I don't think that's very practical in our society. Hard age limits are just easy to enforce. I wrote above that this all has to be part of a larger, coherent plan. It isn't enough to say 'you can't compete at the Olympics' or 'you can't compete in the Grand Prix.' Figure skating has to actually change the goals of young skaters, so that the things they are aiming for are not damaging to their health. There is no reason why 14-year-olds can't train hard at skating; they just shouldn't be doing all that jumping. So make sure that competitions for 14-year-olds reward skating above all else.

posted by Amateur at 09:09 PM on January 03

Figure skating has to actually change the goals of young skaters, so that the things they are aiming for are not damaging to their health. There is no reason why 14-year-olds can't train hard at skating; they just shouldn't be doing all that jumping. So make sure that competitions for 14-year-olds reward skating above all else. That makes perfect sense, but to make this fly, I think you need to also try to find a way to somehow extend the length of figure skating careers. When the sport has evolved such that a)there's one championship (the Olympics) that counts for so much more than any other, b)it only comes around once every four years, and c)the commonly accepted wisdom is that you get one Olympics and then you're off to do Disney On Ice, of course there will always be a cohort of 14-year-olds who will want to train hard at whatever is looked at most favorably in the Olympics. Now, how you do that, I don't know. Perhaps it's an inherent, never-to-be-solved problem with sports that are based on judging rather than on a timer, a tape, or getting a ball/puck/whatever in the goal/in the basket/through the uprights/over the fence. Sports in the latter category provide more rewards for those who can preserve their bodies, hone their ability, and make the word "career" mean something. Case in point, the US Ski Team's Daron Rahlves, now 32 years old, is going to Torino, and not as some kind of charity-case old-timer: he's the current overall leader in this year's World Cup standings.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 02:23 PM on January 04

Okay, I just watched the replay of that Grand Prix. Far as I can tell, Mao Asada won because she made a million jumps and the tournament was in her hometown. She's really good, but she is not ready for the Olympics. She's still a child among grownups, and not even in that young Oksana Baiul way, where there's at least some grace and flow between her jumps. She's a machine with one (impressive, but just the one) trick, and she would get stomped in Torino. Besides, it's not like she'll be old in four years. Once she learns to string those jumps together with the other movements, she'll be a better skater, a better human being, and a more complete artist on the ice.

posted by chicobangs at 09:47 PM on January 04

What? You actually went and watched a sporting event!?? I thought that was against the rules! (I should admit I have not seen her skate, other than brief highlight clips.)

posted by Amateur at 07:24 AM on January 05

Once she learns to string those jumps together with the other movements, she'll be a better skater, a better human being, and a more complete artist on the ice. Or she'll be a burnout. Though I think Asada should be allowed to compete in these games, I have trouble enjoying Olympic sports whose leading competitors are as young as 14-16. There's something disturbing about feeding kids to that mill, with the full-time practice requirements, stage parents and demanding coaches. Dominique Moceanu became a Romanian national team member at 11 and had Bela Karolyi as her coach a year earlier. And for all of the ones who reach the top and are considered a success, there are many more who don't -- including some who are woefully mistreated. Romanian hopeful Adriana Giurca was murdered in 1993 by her coach, who threw her head repeatedly into a balance beam during a practice session because she was allegedly afraid of it. She was 11.

posted by rcade at 07:53 AM on January 05

Once she learns to string those jumps together with the other movements, she'll be a better skater, a better human being, and a more complete artist on the ice. I can't help it; the inclusion of "a better human being" just sparked the giggles in me. I agree with your point, though, that four years will add some much-needed maturity to her skating. Excellent, insightful comments in this thread, folks. Thanks for giving me a reason to visit SpoFi much more often.

posted by evixir at 08:38 AM on January 05

You're not logged in. Please log in or register.