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Underage controversy rocks Four Continents

Chinese and Canadian skaters removed from entry list

Brittany Jones and Kurtis Gaskell were mistakenly listed as alternates for Canada's Four Continents team. Jones is too young to compete.
Brittany Jones and Kurtis Gaskell were mistakenly listed as alternates for Canada's Four Continents team. Jones is too young to compete. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford and Alexandra Stevenson, special to icenetwork.com
(02/15/2011) - Underage Canadian and Chinese skaters have been removed from the entry and alternate list of the 2011 ISU Four Continents Championships, which gets underway in Taipei on Feb 17.

According to her International Skating Union (ISU) biography, Chinese lady Kexin Zhang was born in Jiamusi, China, on Oct. 17, 1995. Entries were not immediately checked by ISU officials. However, when this was eventually done, the discrepancy was noticed and Zhang was removed from the entry list as being too young. The Chinese Skating Association had listed no reserve for the event and therefore only two Chinese ladies, Bingwa Geng and Qiuying Zhu, will compete, instead of the permitted three entries.

A competitor must have turned 15 by the previous July 1 to compete at an Olympics or ISU senior championship, and 14 for other senior-level international competitions. Junior skaters must be at least 13 the previous July 1 but cannot have turned 19 (singles) or 21 (pairs and ice dancers).

The ISU age rule limiting under age skaters is well known, since it was a subject of much discussion when current world champion Mao Asada of Japan, and reigning Olympic gold medalist Yu-Na Kim of South Korea, were too young to compete in the 2006 Olympic Games.

In a less serious error, Brittany Jones and Kurtis Gaskell were listed as substitutes on the Canadian pairs' team for Four Continents in the event's initial list of entries. They were removed immediately after North Americans noticed the disparity. Skate Canada officials readily admitted their mistake, saying it was an unfortunate error due to the haste with which the forms were submitted after the Canadian Figure Skating Championships in January.

Skate Canada officials pointed out that there was no question of false information concerning Jones, who is from Toronto and was born January 18, 1996. Jones' birth date was already known to ISU officials because the team had competed in the Junior Grand Prix Final in China in December, placing sixth. Biographical details for top Canadian skaters are readily available on Skate Canada's website.

The removals from Four Continents' entry list coincide with a larger controversy concerning underage skaters competing for China. According to a report from The Associated Press, a list of birth dates published on the Chinese Skating Association's website indicates skaters violated the ISU age limits by competing in various events when they were either too young or too old. The birth dates on the federation's website differ from those listed on the ISU website bios.

Among those in question are Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang, the 2006 Olympic pairs silver medalists; and Wenjing Sui and Cong Han, the reigning world junior champions. If the birth dates located by AP are correct, Zhang and Zhang would have been ineligible to compete at the 2003 junior world championships, which they won; Sui and Han would have been ineligible to compete at junior worlds last season.

The AP report also raised questions concerning the eligibility of Xiaoyu Yu and Jin Yang, a pair team entered in the 2011 world junior championships that begin Feb. 28 in South Korea; male pair skater Gao Yu, who competed in Junior Grand Prix events this season; and Binshu Xu, who competed at the 2003 junior worlds.