In 1997 the age for participating in senior level women’s gymnastics was raised to age 16. If this age requirement had been in place earlier, Nadia Comaneci, the Romanian super star who was the Olympic champion in 1976, and Tatiana Gutsu, a Ukrainian who achieved the champpionship in 1992, would not have been allowed to compete. Here is a video of Tatiana’s incredible beam performance at the ’92 Olympics.
What is interesting is that as the age for participation has been raised, scientific studies have shown that the prime years for female gymnasts are usually younger years. In the 1980’s 14-year-old gymnasts could compete in senior levels.
A study in 2003 by three researchers at the University of Western Australia measured the relationship between body size and gymnastic performance. The researchers studied 37 gymnasts aged between 10 and 12 for about three years and concluded that smaller, slimmer athletes had an advantage over larger ones training the same amount. They were less muscular but had superior “whole-body rotation skills”, which require a small, agile body. The study also found that when gymnasts grew a lot during the three years, their gymnastics suffered greatly.
What do you think? Based on these studies, should the age be lowered to 14? Tell us in the comments below.