December is usually one of the busiest months for me at work so I am anticipating that I will not be able to post as much in the next couple of weeks. But I do want to weigh in on the discussion about the international age limit.

Bruno Grandi, president of the international gymnastics governing body (FIG), has been quoted as saying that he would like to raise the minimum age limit once again for international competition. In 1997, the age limit was raised from 15 to 16. Grandi has said in the past that he thinks the age limit should be 18 and just recently announced that he believes there should be no international competitions for juniors whatsoever.

There are many things to consider with regard to age limit but by and large, I am tempted to agree with Grandi – though not entirely.

Here are a few of my thoughts on the subject…

  • Making the age limit higher will encourage athletes to stay in the sport longer. Athletes, especially on the women’s side, will see that it’s not necessary to stop the sport at 18. Gymnasts like Chusovitina, Khorkina, Bhardwaj, & Hatch have made it abundantly clear and I believe the FIG should encourage that. With Rick over at Gymnastics Coaching slowing changing my mind about event specialists, I believe that the rise of the event specialist will also encourage longevity in the sport.

Annia Hatch after winning Vault Silver at the 2000 Olympics

  • Raising the minimum age will further foster proper progression & technique for young athletes because there is plenty of time to develop. This is essential for physical safety, mental confidence, and assurance in execution.
  • Allowing more time before being eligible to compete on the senior level would perhaps be easier on the athletes, both physically and mentally. Not only would slower progression be better on young women’s bodies but Grandi is right to encourage mental maturity as well.

There are many that disagree with Grandi and some have raised valid points. As Nadia Comaneci, who was 14 when she shot to international fame at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, pointed out over on the IG website, banning junior athletes from all international competition “…will put gymnasts from small and developing countries at a disadvantage.”

“Countries like the U.S. are so big, and have so many good gymnasts, that the state of Oklahoma could compete against Nebraska and it would be strong competition,” she said. “But what about the small countries with like, 10 gymnasts total. Who will they compete with?”

Nadia on the cover of Time Magazine following the ‘76 Games

I agree with Nadia. I don’t think international competitions like the Junior Pan Ams should be discontinued. There is no reason that younger athletes shouldn’t get a chance to compete with other countries. But the World Championships and Olympic events should be reserved for senior athletes.

So… what are your thoughts? I know that many of you disagree with me. Let me have it. Convince me otherwise. Until then, I’m backing Bruno on this one (though, admittedly, not on much else).

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