Though a year age difference may not seem like much, many coaches and gymnasts strongly opposed the age increase. Their argument? In women's gymnastics, many athletes peak at about age 15 or 16. If the limit had been 16 in 1976, Nadia Comaneci would not have had her historic Olympic performance (she was 14), and other athletes such as Dominique Moceanu (age 14 at the 1996 Olympics), Svetlana Boguinskaya (15 in 1988), and Kerri Strug (age 14 in 1992) would have all been ineligible to compete. Comaneci and Moceanu reached the pinnacle of their sport before their 16th year, and by moving up the age limit, many felt that the FIG was making it that much more difficult for female gymnasts – often with very short careers – to make it to the Olympics.
Others supported the age limit, saying it would be safer for the athletes to compete at a more advanced age, and that coaches would not have to push their gymnasts at a young age in order to reach the elite level by their early teens. Since 1997, the age limit has remained at 16, and current FIG president Bruno Grandi has even talked about increasing it further, to age 18.
Poll: What do you think the age limit should be?
- No age limit
- Age 15 (as it was before 1996)
- Age 16 (as it is now)
- Age 18 (as proposed by Bruno Grandi)
The age limit continued to prove controversial in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Find out more.