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Skating organization considers raising age in Olympic figure skating

Kamila Valieva’s heartbreaking performance at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics has many asking if young teenagers are ready for the pressure of the Olympics.

After watching 15-year-old Russian skater Kamila Valieva's devastating performance at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, there is a renewed international push to consider raising the minimum age in figure skating from 15 to 17-years-old.

During the women’s free skate program, Valieva, who was already embroiled in controversy due to a failed drug test, left the ice in tears when she fumbled on her first four jumps.

The stumbles made Valieva finish in fourth place, while Russian world champion Anna Shcherbakova came in first and her teammate Alexandra Trusova took second. If Valieva had finished in the top three, there would not have been a medal ceremony until the investigation into her possible drug test was completed.

Russia's Kamila Valieva falls as she competes in the women's single skating free skating of the figure skating event during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games at the Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing on February 17, 2022.
Kamila Valieva falls as she competes in the women's free skate program during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.Anne-Christine Poujoulat / Getty Images

The controversy surrounding Valieva has caused many to ask why the minimum age in figure skating hasn’t been raised, especially since young people feel so much pressure at the Olympics.

This summer, the International Skating Union is set to consider a proposal that would raise the minimum age of figure skating in the Olympics to 17.

“There’s definitely a benefit to being a little bit older and stepping on that stage,” said legendary figure skater and Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton in a conversation with TODAY. “I think you’re a more mature athlete.”

Even before the teenager’s performance in the free skating program, many were expressing concern about the young skater’s situation.

“The adults in the room left her alone,” NBC Sports’ Mike Tirico said in an emotional monologue. “Portrayed by some this week as the villain, by others as the victim, she is, in fact, the victim of the villains. The coaches and national Olympic committee surrounding Kamila Valieva, whether they orchestrated, prescribed or enabled — all of this is unclear. But what is certain: They failed to protect her.”

Kamila Valieva of Team ROC reacts after skating during the Women Single Skating Free Skating on day thirteen of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games at Capital Indoor Stadium on February 17, 2022 in Beijing, China.
Kamila Valieva cries after skating during the women's free skate program during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.Catherine Ivill / Getty Images

Once she left the ice after the program, Valieva was met with criticism from coach Eteri Tutberidze who asked her, “Why did you let it go?” according to Insider. “Why did you stop fighting? Explain it to me — why? You let it go after that axel. Why?”

The teenager, who appeared distraught, didn't answer her coach.

Valieva wasn't the only athlete who caught the world's eye after the free skating program. Cameras caught 17-year-old Trusova, who placed second, shouting before going to the medal podium and telling reporters that "There is no happiness" at the Beijing Games, according to the Associated Press. Meanwhile, gold medalist Shcherbakova, also 17, sat alone on the sidelines holding a teddy bear.

Anna Shcherbakova, 17, sat alone after winning a gold medal.
Anna Shcherbakova, 17, sat alone after winning a gold medal.NBC Olympics

Hamilton noted how upsetting it was to see Valieva cry at the Olympics.

“When I see something like this that happens, especially to someone so young. It just — it hurts,” he told TODAY.

 Rafael Arutunian, coach to figure skater and gold medalist Nathan Chen, told NBC Sports that he believes the age minimum should be raised.

“If you are skating in an adult competition, you should be an adult,” Arutunian said.