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February 13, 2007
Gymnasts too young? FIG says the rumor is false

General view during the balance beam exercise at the women's artistic gymnastics individual competition on August 19, 2004 during the Athens 2004 Summer Olympic Games at the Olympic Sports Complex Indoor Hall in Athens, Greece. (Photo by Sean Garnsworthy/Getty Images)

PARIS, France/ MOUTIER, Switzerland, February 13, 2007: The International Gymnastic Federation (FIG) has hit back at criticism that gymnasts’ well-being is being threatened by competing when they are too young.

Backed up by a recently-updated statistical study, Dr Michel Léglise, Vice-President of the FIG and President of its Medical Commission said: "Whether we're talking about educational or training programs, various regulations or access to the competition, the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique puts child and teen safety first in all its activities; it's a question of psychological and physical well-being for a child. It's an ethical principle for the FIG."

The study indicates that the average age for young women in competition is rising. Since 1994, the average age of female gymnasts went up from 16.49 to 18.10 in 2006, peaking in 2005 at 18.27. FIG says the educational programs and age limit competition rule seem to be at the root of a rise in the average age in Women's Artistic at large-scale FIG competitions or Olympic Games. “Two factors are at work here: slightly later age access and greater longevity in women participating in high-level competition”. Statistics were substantially less significant in men.

Such a significant rise in the average age has prompted a range of comments and analysis from insiders at the FIG. Some foresee a substantial gain in the perfecting of body expression. Intellectual and emotional issues at the age of 18 are not what they were at 16, and FIG says that it can be seen on the mat. “Gestures are more accomplished, body expression is more mature and gymnasts interpret and create forms in the air – the acrobat becomes and artist”.

And it is in this direction that FIG President, Professor Bruno Grandi, hopes to guide the discipline. "The word artistic is in its very title!" reminded the President.

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