Maybe 15-20 years ago, one didn't see 'peaking' in mid to late 20's, but several factors make it possible now:
1. availability of nutritionist advice (based on DNA analysis) to know what exactly you should be eating at what times and in what amounts and in what order
2. availability of trainers who are able to specify what types of training to do in what order to gain or lose what kinds of muscles in what parts of your body
3. advancements in coaching techniques (i.e., use of handycams in everyday practice and other computer-assisted analysis of athletes' movements at a microlevel to spot what is not right) that make late-stage technical corrections less troublesome
In other words, there is more precise information on how to micro-manage your health and physique, there are now more ways to continuously improve as a figure skater, and physically, women do have their natural peak around 23-5 and men in their mid to late 20's (if you look at what age groups are winning in other sports, that is what you can say), and since there's such a strong mental component to this sport, some skaters may have physically peaked a bit earlier but only reach their mental peak a bit later, and so as a whole, they reach their 'peak' in their mid to late 20's for women, and men bordering 30. So it's to be expected that 'older' skaters will continue to win in figure skating.
Of course, this is not to say that younger skaters won't win. I'm sure there will be occasions when a precocious skater will win.
Last edited by hurrah; 04-14-2012 at 09:58 PM.
It is different for each individual. Here would be my estimations of some past noteables:
Maria Butyrskaya- peaked around age 26. Her best competition ever was the 1999 Worlds at 26. Her best short program ever was the 2000 Worlds at 27. Her best long program ever was possibly the 1998 Europeans at 25. Age 25-27 is the only time her skating and execution of elements was smooth enough to be taken seriously as a contender.
Michelle Kwan- Some would say she peaked at age 17 in 1998. Phil Hersh said she peaked technically at age 15 in 1996, and artistically at age 17 in 1998. I however feel her best overall performances ever were at the 2000 and 2001 Worlds at ages 20 and 21, so I would say that is when she peaked.
Tara Lipinski- Peaked at 14 and 15, but never gave herself the chance to peak at any later age.
Irina Slutskaya- Her best skating ever was fall 2004-fall 2005 until the 05/06 GP final where her decline towards Turin began. Thus she peaked at roughly age 26. Despite that from 2000-2002 she won 3 straight Grand Prix finals, a World title, an Olympic silver, regularly defeated Michelle Kwan, and nearly won 2 additional Worlds and an Olympics, she still was not skating at her fall 04/winter 05/fall 05 level, apart from possibly the 2000 Grand Prix final and 2001 Russian Nationals.
Alissa Czisny- I have a feeling her peak will forever be the 2010-2011 season. Thus her peak was age 23.
Lu Chen- Her combined technical and artistic peak was 1994/1995 so she peaked very young, ages 17 and 18. Her best performance ever was probably her LP at the 96 Worlds, but it came after a season of disaesterous skating compared to the previous 4 seasons (which is why in the political sport of figure skating she was marked 2nd for a superior performance to winner Michelle Kwan) so was an anamoly of sorts. Her technical peak was 1992-1994 and artistic peak was 1995-1998.
Surya Bonaly- Her peak was in 1993 so she peaked at age 19. Her performances at the 94 Olympics and 94 Worlds already showed a slight decline, though she didnt majorly drop off until fall 95.
Miki Ando- peaked in 2006-2007 season at age 19. Capatilized on weak field to dominate 2010-2011 season but did not reach level of skating (well mostly jumping but that is all that matters with her) as 2006-2007.
Mao Asada- peaked from fall 2005-winter 2007 so ages 15 and 16.
Joannie Rochette- peaked at ages 23/24.
Sasha Cohen- peaked at age 20/21.
Midori Ito- peaked at age 19/20 in 1989 and 1990.
Kristi Yamaguchi- peaked as amateur at age 19/20, but based on pro skating probably would have continued to get better had she stayed in.
The oldest lady skaters ever peak at the amateur level (as a pro competitor or show skater you can peak at any age) is 26. The youngest can be 15. So those holding on hoping to reach a late career peak in their 30s like Fumie Suguri are clearly delusional, as even the wide variance of peaking ages does not include anything like that.