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Thread: Effects of teen growth spurts on skaters

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    Effects of teen growth spurts on skaters

    I came across this article, it's from 2008, but really, what it's about isn't limited to five years ago

    http://articles.baltimoresun.com/200...r-skater-spurt [/URL]

    The fact is growthspurts and the onset of puberty can really disrupt a skater's career, especially girls. Even Michelle Kwan struggled with it.

    Why do some skaters get completely thrown while others recover more quickly?

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    Custom Title spikydurian's Avatar
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    I think it's the degree of change/growth spurt between the different ladies? Although Michelle Kwan went through puberty, I don't think there was much change in terms of height and weight. Hence, it might have affected her skills less. Growth spurt mostly affect balance and coordination which are vital skills in figure skating.

    Maybe .. any girls who wish to take up figure skating should look at her parents to gauge her future size?

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    Quote Originally Posted by spikydurian View Post
    I think it's the degree of change/growth spurt between the different ladies? Although Michelle Kwan went through puberty, I don't think there was much change in terms of height and weight. Hence, it might have affected her skills less. Growth spurt mostly affect balance and coordination which are vital skills in figure skating.
    That's true. Michelle went from around 4'11 and 88 lbs in 1995-96, to 5'2 around 105 lbs in 1996-97, she is definitely more mature and filled out after that year. Even the slightest change can effect a skater.

    I was watching Kimmie Meissner's performance in 2008 and it reminded me of Cynthia Phaneuf at the 2005 Canadians, where Cynthia only landed one clean triple. Both girls were at the forefront and carried the hype while trying to adjust to their new height and weight. Cynthia was also hampered by injury the following year, she regained her jumps and skating in 2009, though not quite able to regain that consistency. Kimmie, of course, was beaten by teens, and those girls, Caroline Zhang, Rachel Flatt and Mirai Nagasu, have all had to adjust to puberty. Mirai had to defend while adjusting to a growthspurt. With Michelle, she only started to struggle after the disaster at 1997 nationals, but in a way, the struggles that year helped her to gain the character she needed going into an Olympic year.

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    There's more than one factor in play. There are the physical factors and how they affect your skating, and then there's the competition you face at home. Look at Elene Gedevanishvili. Before physical maturity hit her, she was reeling off 3/3s and was a tiny whiz. Then she and her family were kicked out of Russia AND Elene filled out. Now she is inconsistent and struggles to land even a 3/2. But she is the one and only Georgian skater and has no competition, so if she isn't as great as she once was, she still gets to go to Euros and Worlds as long as she can get those TES minimums.

    Carolina Kostner had her struggles with jumps as she kept growing taller and taller. Again, she didn't have a lot of competition in Italy, only Valentina Marchei who herself was almost as inconsistent at the time. But Carolina always had her speed, so judges would forgive her jump faults and still give her high PCS scores.

    Cynthia Phaneuf had similar struggles with jumps after she grew and developed and had injuries too. There weren't many Canadian ladies at the time who were competitive with her even though Cynthia was far from her best, so Cynthia continued to represent Canada at international competitions until 2012, when Amelie Lacoste won the Canadian championship.

    Competition in the US is tough, so skaters who get bitten hard by the puberty bug are quickly passed by other skaters. If Mirai Nagasu had skated for say, Belgium or Netherlands, she would have continued to compete at the highest levels despite her struggles with growth and development and she'd be headed for Sochi today.

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    Custom Title plushyfan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spikydurian View Post

    Maybe .. any girls who wish to take up figure skating should look at her parents to gauge her future size?
    This isn't a joke. In my country this method is used in other sports as well. It's called selection. The experts want to know how tall the children's parents,what size shoe wears the child, this is indicate how tall they will be, etc. And the ballet schools also employ selection.

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    skating philosopher Mrs. P's Avatar
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    I think growth spurts can be managed and mitigated. You just have to decide your priorities and what your goals are in the interim. And accept that you will be operating at 75-80 percent until you regain certain skills.

    Now this isn't a great example since it involves a guy and it's noted that guys have it a bit easier as far as growth spurts, however it is worth noting. Jason Brown was 5'1 when he won the junior title at U.S. Nationals in 2010. He was 5'4 by 2011 Nationals and 5'7 by 2012 Nationals. Jason's famous folly of course was mastering the triple axel and I have a feeling this major growth spurt over this two year period is a big reason there was a delay in getting it. However, Jason was lucky that he went through this growth spurt while he was still in juniors nationally/internationally. But one thing his team did well was having him work on other things that wouldn't be as affected by a growth spurt, i.e. spins, choreo, skating skills.

    Yuna Kim also did not fare too badly with a growth spurt. She still managed to be on the podium despite her injuries/growth spurt in the 2006-2007 season.

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    I wish there were some other term we could use besides "monster." Puberty is not a horrible calamity to be dreaded. Even if you can't jump as high, it's only figure skating. Teenagers are self-conscious enough about their bodies without coaches and fans scrutinizing every pound and inch.

    Michelle Kwan joked afterward, about all the hoopla when she was 14 and 15, "What did they think I was going to do, topple over?"

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    skating philosopher Mrs. P's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mathman View Post
    I wish there were some other term we could use besides "monster." Puberty is not a horrible calamity to be dreaded. Even if you can't jump as high, it's only figure skating. Teenagers are self-conscious enough about their bodies without coaches and fans scrutinizing every pound and inch.

    Michelle Kwan joked afterward, about all the hoopla when she was 14 and 15, "What did they think I was going to do, topple over?"
    I just like to use growth spurt. I think that's the most accurate way to assess things, IMO. Whether you are growin in height or in other ways, you are experiencing growth.

    As I said, I think if you have solid technique and foundation prior to the growth spurt, it's just a matter of readjusting your center of gravity. I think we've seen growth spurts wreak havoc on certain skaters because they did not have a firm technique in place they could depend on when the growth started happening.

    Kimmie Meissner was a great competitor, but I wouldn't say she had great technique. Even before the spurt, she seem to muscle through jumps.

    Caroline Zhang is a cautionary tale on where bad technique can catch up to you when you're growing.

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    PUBERTY monster affects girls who primarily have bad jump technique.

    What can really do one's career in is POST-PUBERTY weight gain - which affects many skaters regardless of if they have good technique or not.

    Some ladies struggle with both, for example Caroline and Mirai. Caroline started struggling and her scores were going down starting in 2009 and through the 2009-2010 season, she was still pretty thin at this time but she was growing taller and going through puberty and it was hurting her jumps and making her slowness that much more obvious, then she continued to struggle in the following seasons when she filled out significantly.

    Mirai had pretty much the same deal, struggled in the 08-09 season when she hit puberty, shot up, and got injured all after winning the National title. Then she managed to bounce back in time for the 2010 Olympics. Then the next season she had filled out a lot and wasn't skating as well, and ever since 4CCs in 2011, she has never delivered a skate of such caliber in competition (not a FS over 120 since that comp) as she continued to fill out.

    Meissner didn't get hit by puberty monster and was actually at her best during her growing years which was when she won her World Title. Then afterwards she filled out and her jumps went away and the results plummeted.

    Anyways, puberty is unavoidable, but the weight-gain most women experience in the years after it is more avoidable/controllable, I say more because that's where I think genetics comes into play more. You can be a skinny 80 something pound teen and get a period, but the issue is more, most of these tiny skinny girls that stay tiny and skinny aren't athletes, or if they are they maybe do cross country or other sports where building up such strong muscles as those needed in figure skating is not necessary. Looking at the mothers' of many of these figure skaters, it's hardly surprising to see so many of them struggling to maintain a low enough weight to be competitive, it's likely just not in their genetics. What gets confusing is that at 13, 14, even 15 for some girls, most figure skaters are very short and slender - but it's not because of genetics, but because they have delayed puberty compared to their peers. A couple years later some of those tiny girls are quite tall, and others rather curvy or muscular, and this is likely because they finally reached maturity and have the build they are meant to have.

    In middle school, my best friend and I were about the same size - tiny, skinny, about 5 ft and 85 pounds as 8th graders. My friend though had started her period at 13 but I did not until 15, and fast forward a few years later to the end of high school, my friend remained tiny and was 5'2" and 90-95 lbs while I was over 5'5" and weighed about 115-120. So really - she was tiny in middle school because of genetics, meanwhile I was tiny in middle school because of heavy athletics and late puberty. Once I caught up my family's average-sized athletic build genetics came into play and I was "normal" while my friend remained "tiny"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mathman View Post
    I wish there were some other term we could use besides "monster." Puberty is not a horrible calamity to be dreaded. Even if you can't jump as high, it's only figure skating. Teenagers are self-conscious enough about their bodies without coaches and fans scrutinizing every pound and inch.
    I said puberty monster because that's what it can feel like. It isn't all that bad once you adjust, and a mature figure can help a skater. It can mean more speed, bigger jumps, more power and a more mature look in general. Those aren't bad things at all. I agree about scrutinizing a skater's weight, it's unnecessary and ridiculous. I hate when people say skaters are fat or need to lose weight, this is why there are eating disorders. I wonder if all the people picking at a skater's body have perfect bodies.

    Michelle Kwan joked afterward, about all the hoopla when she was 14 and 15, "What did they think I was going to do, topple over?"
    I think people forgot that Michelle was still a teen. She had so much poise and maturity that she seemed older but she was 15 when she won her first world title. And honestly, she was due for an off year like she had in 1996-97, it happens to everyone. Considering the changes she was going through and her age and pressure, she still skated pretty well most of the time. We're just so used to her being perfect and when she wasn't it was like "OMG she's HUMAN!". I think once she regained her form and confidence she knew she could get back. Barb Underhill said that what she went through in 1996-97 made people care about her because it all came so easy the year before and now we wanted it for her.

    I agree it's more likely to effect someone with iffy technique. Yu-Na definitely fared pretty well, considering she won the GPF title, a bronze medal Worlds and some GP medals. She has good skating skills. I wonder how Tara would have fared had she been competing during her growth spurt.

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    Quote Originally Posted by silverlake22 View Post
    PUBERTY monster affects girls who primarily have bad jump technique.
    ITA with this. If I think about the skaters who had the most womanly bodies as adults, like Irina and Tonya, they had overall solid technique as teenagers and jumped UP. Both actually were better as adults because they were able to build on their existing technique rather than having to relearn the jumps to accommodate their post-puberty bodies.

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    Quote Originally Posted by drivingmissdaisy View Post
    ITA with this. If I think about the skaters who had the most womanly bodies as adults, like Irina and Tonya, they had overall solid technique as teenagers and jumped UP. Both actually were better as adults because they were able to build on their existing technique rather than having to relearn the jumps to accommodate their post-puberty bodies.
    Definitely true with Irina, once she got her lutz back, added a more mature complete package and regained her form she was tough to beat. She had great spring in her jump, definitely her body changes helped her. Tonya is also a more athletically built skater and that can help jumps.

    Cynthia Phaneuf had similar struggles with jumps after she grew and developed and had injuries too. There weren't many Canadian ladies at the time who were competitive with her even though Cynthia was far from her best, so Cynthia continued to represent Canada at international competitions until 2012, when Amelie Lacoste won the Canadian championship.
    With regards to this. It's ironic, the first time Cynthia won her Canadian title, the field was very deep. Jennifer Robinson was third and her costly mistakes were two-footed jumps, normally not at all costly for her. Annie Bellemare landed five triples, including two lutzes. She finished fourth. She won again in 2011, but without Joannie, no one could really challenge her then. Amelie Lacoste did take it away from her in 2012, and Kaetlyn Osmond won last year and I think will retain her crown for a bit.

    After Cynthia recovered from her growth spurt and injuries, her main competition was Mira Leung, and Mira, for whatever reason, fell off the map. I don't think it was a growth spurt that derailed Mira, she just seemed to lose her spark in 2008-09. She did beat Joannie in the SP a couple of time but Joannie would come back and skate cleanly and regain her title. I don't remember much mention of Joannie being affected by a growth spurt.

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    I think most of it is genetics. Michelle, puberty or not, was never going to be a tall, bodacious young lady, the anathema figure type in figure skating. This is what helped puberty have a minimal effect on her. I think good techique does weigh in and becomes more important when a skater can't just rotate at will, but eventually most of us grow. I was a tiny thing until well into high school. Ideal for rotation (but scared to death). However, I did eventually reach 5'7" while still only weighing 110. I doubt I would have been elite singles skater at that height, despite my skinny body. I think this is what happened to Kimmie. You could always tell she wasn't going to be short, and most elite skaters are waaay short, even the tall-seeming ones.

    I think that too-young Russian girl is going to to meet the same fate. To me she looks like someone who is going to outgrow skating in the height direction. Long legs, big feet...

    When I am skate dictator there will be a discipline of skating that has no more than double jumps and rewards creativity, skating skills and all the things that go into presentation. For both women and men and maybe pairs. Since we don't have pros anymore I would like for skaters to develop the wonderful artistic programs t hat we saw from, for example, Browning and Boitano post-eligibility. To me, that's where they did their best work, and we never get to see that anymore, what with IJS, quads, quads, and more quads, triple-triple combos, ugly spins, and who can pull their leg the farthest over her head.

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    I think good technique for jumps has to be taught well before senior or even juniors, I would say at least novice.

    One thing with Irina that helped her is that in her peak, (pre-heart condition), was she was in great shape, she worked to tone her body (not that she was fat), and she always had good speed and power across the ice. That's what I do like about the powerhouses like Slutskaya, they are exciting to watch.

    With Zhang, I think her problems were established and never corrected in her formative years. It wasn't just her high-kicking free leg (which isn't good technique) but also her lack of speed into the jumps, those combined make the jumps even more difficult to rotate fully.

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    At the rink. Again. mskater93's Avatar
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    Good basics need to be taught from the time a skater is learning to jump, not just when they get to the Novice level (where a lot of bad habits are already ingrained when learning singles and doubles) but down at the basic skills levels (when skaters are learning bunny hops and waltz jumps) and very low FS levels (in the US at pre-pre and preliminary).

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