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Thread: Age and the Female Figure Skater, e.g.: Alissa Czisny

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    On the Ice Tippi1963's Avatar
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    Age and the Female Figure Skater, e.g.: Alissa Czisny

    So, Akiko Suzuki just won the 2013 Japanese Nationals at the age of 28 and will be 1 month shy of her 29th birthday at Sochi. Maria Butyrskaya won Europeans in 2002 at the age of 29 and was 4 months shy of her 30th birthday when she placed 6th in Salt Lake City.

    OK, so, wouldn’t seem feasible that a healthy Alissa Czisny could, at least, be competitive for a few more seasons (maybe not all the way to the 2018 Winter Games as she would be 8 months past 30 years-but who knows?), and be able to reclaim the US National title, and perhaps even a Four Continents and/or a World medal?

    Of course she would have to want to continue competing (say she does), does anyone else other than me think she could hold her own against the young phenoms climbing the ranks now, especially since they are all due to hit their growth spurts, which we all know can reek havoc on a female figure skater?

    Anyone with me on this?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tippi1963 View Post
    So, Akiko Suzuki just won the 2013 Japanese Nationals at the age of 28 and will be 1 month shy of her 29th birthday at Sochi. Maria Butyrskaya won Europeans in 2002 at the age of 29 and was 4 months shy of her 30th birthday when she placed 6th in Salt Lake City.

    OK, so, wouldn’t seem feasible that a healthy Alissa Czisny could, at least, be competitive for a few more seasons (maybe not all the way to the 2018 Winter Games as she would be 8 months past 30 years-but who knows?), and be able to reclaim the US National title, and perhaps even a Four Continents and/or a World medal?

    Of course she would have to want to continue competing (say she does), does anyone else other than me think she could hold her own against the young phenoms climbing the ranks now, especially since they are all due to hit their growth spurts, which we all know can reek havoc on a female figure skater?

    Anyone with me on this?
    Unfortunately, I think Alissa is done. Even if she has the will to continue, which would be Energizer Bunny-esque given how long she's already been competing, her body seems like it won't allow her to train enough to compete at a high level. She's had two major hip surgeries and her hip problem still hasn't healed- apparently she still skates with pain and is only able to do a fraction of the triple jumps and complex spins she did at her peak.

    There's also a huge question of whether Alissa could still be competitive at the world level now even if she was healthy. The technical ante has been significantly increased since 2011-2012 with almost all the top ladies doing 6+ triples with one 3-3 combination. Even with her well deserved PCS and excellent spins, I don't know if Alissa's technical content (no 3-3, no 2A-3T, rarely more than 5 clean triples in a FS) would get her onto the world podium. Even if you're right that people like Lipnitskaia and Radionova may lose some of their technical ability in the next few years, others won't. Gracie Gold is past puberty and is only improving. Sotnikova is past puberty. So is Kaetlyn Osmond. And then there's Wagner, Murakami, Pogorilaya, and all the junior girls coming up.

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    🌸🐱❄🐱❄🐱🌸 jennyanydots's Avatar
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    As much as I love Alissa and never ever want her to stop skating, I would have to agree that she's probably done. Her hip injury is a very severe one and I doubt that she'll ever regain all of her technical abilities. I know Michelle Kwan had a similar injury and was planning a comeback which she didn't go through with. Of course I wouldn't really know for sure, but it would seem the extent of Michelle's injury probably wasn't as severe as Alissa's and she had given it plenty of time to heal. Also Michelle likely had better hip joint stability than Alissa to begin with, judging from degree of flexibility and hip turnout. There does seem to be a correlation between hip joint and jump stability. Alissa was never a good jumper in the first place. Factoring in age makes it even more unlikely. Yuna is several years younger than Alissa and is already saying her body is getting worn out and everything is so much harder than before. Plus she started skating much later than Alissa and has had time off from competitive training. I think that illustrates just how tough Alissa really is to have kept on going. However, I would say that if Shizuka Arakawa wanted to make a comeback she could probably pull it off. I believe she's in her 30's now but is still in great shape. The difference is that Shizuka has reliable jump technique and never had any major injuries.

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    It does seem like hip injuries are the death knells of skaters careers. What people MUST understand is that athletes' bodies (especially joints and stuff) age faster than the populace at large because of chronic, repetitive use. As skaters get older, they get more and more mileage on, specifically: Hips, knees, and ankles. They're pounding these joints, not only while jumping, but also in spins, footwork, and just general stroking. Medicine has come a long way to where you CAN come back from major injury, but Alyssa's hip injury seems to be chronic.

    The TL:DR answer: No, I don't think Alyssa specifically could skate competitively to 2018.

    BTW: Suzuki and Maria are EXCEPTIONS to the rule in skating. There are MANY more examples of ladies who had their careers cut short or ended because of injury.

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    Did Akiko and Maria have physical injuries to the extent Alissa did? I don't recall they did. It would be a big gamble for Alissa and quite likely not pay off and drain her financially. She has exceptional abilities in other areas and should probably begin to use those fully.

    QUESTION: When Akiko wins a medal at Sochi (sending positive vibes), will she be the oldest woman single skater to do so?

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    Quote Originally Posted by zschultz1986 View Post
    BTW: Suzuki and Maria are EXCEPTIONS to the rule in skating. There are MANY more examples of ladies who had their careers cut short or ended because of injury.
    It astounds me that Maria B managed to stay injury free. She had the most terrible looking falls of any skater I can think of.

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    The fact that Akiko won is awesome!

    As for the question at hand, Akiko, Maria, Kristi, and Shizuka are clearly exceptional. Another such is Denise Biellmann, who maintained her jumps for years though she did turn pro. It's often a mixture of solid technique, probably body type, and some luck. Alissa never had strong jumps, so she started with less advantage. And her injury does seem, like Yagudin's, to be insurmountable.

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    Akiko had no major injuries that I know of. Well, of course she had to miss a whole season early in her career, but as we all know it wasn't due to injury.

    Yes Olympia, you are right in saying that they are truly exceptional
    Also, two of these women you mention have something in common, Akiko and Shizuka: it's Hiroshi Nagakubo. Shizuka is still landing triple triples and she's over 30 years old; Akiko is 28 and learned how to jump 3-3 in one off season at the 'ripe' age of 26. I remember Akiko saying that she didn't have a body that was suited for jumping (IIRC she was talking about her shoulders in particular?), but it's clear that if you have someone that can teach you the right jumping technique in a way that adapts to your body...

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    As has been mentioned by others in this thread, there are more factors than just age to consider: e.g.,
    injuries, finances, depth of competitive field in the skater's home country.

    Also the skater's own career plans: do they want to go to college, grad school/professional school, start a family (more significant for women than men), pursue non-skating career options that are best started at 20-something rather than 30- or 40-something?

    Even if they want to continue focusing on skating, do they enjoy competition best or would they prefer performing in shows?

    Every individual will be different. If they have the health and the desire and the financial means to keep competing, more power to them. Competitive results may vary.

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    ~ Figure Skating Is My Passion ~ Ladskater's Avatar
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    It used to be not unusual for skaters to continue competing into their 30s. In fact many European skaters did so. I think as long as skaters remain healthy and don't sustain any injuries to prevent them from competing then it is up to the skater to decide when to quit. The competitive life is not an easy one and a lot of skaters decide to "hang up" their competitive skates for various reasons. I am sure Alissa will decide when the time is right for her.

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    On the Ice Tippi1963's Avatar
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    A lot of good insight to my thread post. You all must really be "connected" because I can't seem to Google any interesting figure skating news that isn't a year old! I didn't know Alissa was skating in that much pain. That's too bad. *sigh*

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tippi1963 View Post
    So, Akiko Suzuki just won the 2013 Japanese Nationals at the age of 28 and will be 1 month shy of her 29th birthday at Sochi. Maria Butyrskaya won Europeans in 2002 at the age of 29 and was 4 months shy of her 30th birthday when she placed 6th in Salt Lake City.

    OK, so, wouldn’t seem feasible that a healthy Alissa Czisny could, at least, be competitive for a few more seasons (maybe not all the way to the 2018 Winter Games as she would be 8 months past 30 years-but who knows?), and be able to reclaim the US National title, and perhaps even a Four Continents and/or a World medal?

    Of course she would have to want to continue competing (say she does), does anyone else other than me think she could hold her own against the young phenoms climbing the ranks now, especially since they are all due to hit their growth spurts, which we all know can reek havoc on a female figure skater?

    Anyone with me on this?
    First off not every skater is the same. Those who excel at 28 and 29 are unique cases who are a very very small minority. We are reminded with Fumie Suguri and even the much younger Miki Ando now how those cases you mention are the aberration, not the norm. Part of the reason Suzuki and Butyrskaya arguably peaked at around 26, and were still contenders at 28 and 29, is they didnt even start to become good until about 23 or 24. Until then they were journeywomen who couldnt even make it out of their own countries to major events. Suzuki`s first Worlds was at 25, just after her first Olympic at 24. Butyrskaya`s first Worlds (not counting the time she didnt even make it out of the 24 women who advanced out of qualifying, so for all intents wasnt even there) was at 23. Even Michelle Kwan, one of the all time great skaters AND one of the all time greatest in the `longevity`category, was clearly past her prime and done as a real contender at 24.

    Czisny even at her best did not have the technical ability that Wagner and a good Gracie Gold now have. She also did not have the strongest skating skills, confidence, or consistency. Her last major event of any kind was her epic meltdown at the 2012 Worlds, while skating when she clearly should have WD with injury, which likely would never have been forgotten by the USFSA (just look at the scoring of former USFSA pet and golden child Flatt at the 2012 Nationals). Most of all though she has now had two major hip surgeries, and another injury since then, and years of other injuries, which make training 6 or 7 triples (which she would need to be competitve today, and rarely even attempted, let alone did, in her prime) a hugely risky proposition at best.

    So to your questions a resounding NO to everyone. I really think her biggest goal was to hang on to try for this years Olympics. Given how wide open that 3rd spot is, she might have been able to get it had she not sustained yet another injury. A real shame for her. She might want to compete one last time at Nationals to go out on a better note. However as for international glory or being U.S Champion again, no way.

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    Quote Originally Posted by amc987 View Post
    Unfortunately, I think Alissa is done. Even if she has the will to continue, which would be Energizer Bunny-esque given how long she's already been competing, her body seems like it won't allow her to train enough to compete at a high level. She's had two major hip surgeries and her hip problem still hasn't healed- apparently she still skates with pain and is only able to do a fraction of the triple jumps and complex spins she did at her peak.

    There's also a huge question of whether Alissa could still be competitive at the world level now even if she was healthy. The technical ante has been significantly increased since 2011-2012 with almost all the top ladies doing 6+ triples with one 3-3 combination. Even with her well deserved PCS and excellent spins, I don't know if Alissa's technical content (no 3-3, no 2A-3T, rarely more than 5 clean triples in a FS) would get her onto the world podium. Even if you're right that people like Lipnitskaia and Radionova may lose some of their technical ability in the next few years, others won't. Gracie Gold is past puberty and is only improving. Sotnikova is past puberty. So is Kaetlyn Osmond. And then there's Wagner, Murakami, Pogorilaya, and all the junior girls coming up.
    Alissa in her best season of skating in 2010-2011, winning the Grand Prix final, winning U.S Nationals with an amazing performance, and then skating almost perfectly again at Worlds, still could finish only 5th, in what was probably the worst womens field since about 1980. She was beaten by Alena Leonova at Worlds in her best year of skating when she was twice more consistent than any other time of her career. Yu Na Kim showed up woefully unprepared and basically sleptwalked through those Worlds without any of her usual energy or command, about made 4 mistakes over the 2 programs, and still nearly (and probably should have) won those same Worlds Czisny could only make 5th skating nearly cleanly at.

    Of course she isnt going to be on the World podium today in any form. Her PCS are not THAT high. They are only high for a U.S skater in the era of Flatt and Zhang as her main competitors. They were never in the vacinity of Kim, Asada, Kostner, Ando, Rochette, for instance. She has some wonderful qualities in her skating but she was far too slow and hesitant a skater to ever get top notch international PCS, nor did she ever establish herself as enough a top skater to gain the rep to get higher PCS. Today landing 4 or 5 triples (`good` for her) she would be beaten on PCS by nearly everyone in the top 11 from Worlds last year. Especialy as she hasnt been seen in years and has absolutely no rep value on the World stage anymore.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pangtongfan View Post
    Most of all though she has now had two major hip surgeries, and another injury since then, and years of other injuries, which make training 6 or 7 triples (which she would need to be competitve today, and rarely even attempted, let alone did, in her prime) a hugely risky proposition at best.
    I don't believe Alissa has had any injuries past the two hip surgeries. It sounded like in her comeback she had good days and bad days in training (per the interview with Yuka Sato with the Skating Lesson this fall), which is pretty standard for anyone coming back from injury, and hip injuries are particularly tough to come back from.

    She hasn't said whether she'll continue to compete, but if she does want to come back and try, I certainly would love to see her pull a Ryan Bradley and go out on a high note. Otherwise, she is perfectly suited for shows and I hope to see her performing in an exhibition setting, perhaps even at the gala at Nationals this year.

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    Alissa may well be done, even if she isn't saying so yet. She knew she wouldn't make it to 2014 Nationals, and that's why she withdrew from Sectionals. Alissa may never be able to skate at a competitive level again, and only she can make that determination.

    The problem with Alissa's type of injury, a torn labrum (fibrous tissue connecting the head of the femur to the hip socket) is that when the tissue heals, it is not as strong or as flexible as it was before the injury. The skater never gets back the full range of motion she had before the injury and there is always the danger of reinjury; sometimes the pain never quite goes away. The Olympics was a goal Alissa badly wanted and she tried hard for, but she had to give it up when she realized her body couldn't do what was needed. It's hard to imagine what other goal could motivate Alissa to continue on....

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