This might seem like an odd and not exactly the correct question but a lot of parents ask what is the best age for kids to start ice skating.
First of all, I have to point out that in general, I believe, it’s never too late to learn how to ice skate if you do it for fun. You can start at 10, 13, 16 years old or even later and still succeed/be able to learn some figure skating tricks. Not everyone ice skates with the mindset to be going to the Olympics and there are a lot of skaters that simply enjoy being on the ice, have a passion for the sport and set more realistic goals within their reach.
But if you are a parent and you dreaming of your child to go far in figure skating, you might be interested when is the right time to start with ice skating lessons.
Some parents put their kids on the ice very early as soon as they are able to walk. I don’t think it’s necessary to start skating as early and I feel like it’s too much for 2-3-year-olds as they won’t be able to understand and follow some simple instructions.
In the figure skating world it’s known that 4, 5 and 6 years old is a good age to start ice skating lessons. 4-6-year-old children pick things up quickly, they learn basic ice skating moves a lot faster than most 2-3-year-olds.
Example: let’s say, there are two girls of the same age. One of them started skating at 3 years old, another one started skating as soon as she turned 5 – which means she is 2 years behind. What usually happens is that older kids learn faster and at the end, they catch up to other skaters of their age that started skating earlier.
For sure, it’s not always the case and a lot depends on a child’s physical capabilities and natural talent, how often you practice, and the qualification of an ice skating instructor or a private coach.
At what age famous figure skaters started skating?
Female single skaters
- Alina Zagitova (Russia), 2018 Olympic champion – 4 years old;
- Evgenia Medvedeva (Russia), 2018 Olympics silver medalist – 3 years old;
- Kaetlyn Osmond (Canada), 2018 World Champion – 3 years old;
- Yuna Kim (South Korea), 2010 Olympic Champion, 2014 Olympic silver medalist – 6 years old;
- Mao Asada (Japan), 3-time World Champion, 2010 Olympic silver medalist – 5 years old;
- Michelle Kwan (USA), 5-time World Champion, two-time Olympic medalist – first stepped on the ice at 5 but started training seriously when she was 8;
- Sasha Cohen (USA), 2006 Olympic silver medalist – started skating at 7, more seriously at 11 years old;
Male single skaters
- Yuzuru Hanyu (Japan), 2014 and 2018 Olympic champion – 4 years old;
- Shoma Uno (Japan), 2018 Olympic silver medalist – 5 years old;
- Javier Fernandez (Spain), 2015-2016 World champion – 6 years old;
- Nathan Chen (USA), 2018 World champion – 3 years old;
- Patrick Chan (Canada), 2011-2013 World champion – 6 years old;
- Evgeni Plushenko (Russia), four-time Olympic medalist – 4 years old;
- Evan Lysacek (USA), 2010 Olympic champion – 8 years old;
- Alexei Yagudin (Russia), 2002 Olympic champion – 4 years old;
- Elvis Stojko (Canada), three-time World champion, two-time Olympic medalist – 4 years old;
- Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir (Canada), 2010 and 2018 Olympic champions – 5/3 years old;
- Meryl Davis/Charlie White (USA), 2014 Olympic champions – 5/5 years old;
- Jayne Torvill/Christopher Dean (England), 1984 Olympic champions – 8/10 years old;
- Marina Anissina/Gwendal Peizerat (France), 2002 Olympic champions – 4/4 years old;
- Tatiana Navka/Roman Kostomarov (Russia), 2006 Olympic champions – 5/9 years old;
- Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (France), World champions 2015-2016 and 2018 – 3/8 years old;
- Aljona Savchenko/Bruno Massot (Germany), 2018 Olympic champions – 5/7 years old;
- Tatiana Volosozhar/Maxim Trankov (Russia), 2014 Olympic champions – 4/4 years old;
- Ekaterinburg Gordeeva/Sergei Grinkov (Russia), 1988 and 1994 Olympic champions – 4/5 years old;
- Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford(Canada), 2015-2016 World champions – 3/8 years old;
- Tatiana Totmianina/Maxim Marinin (Russia), 2006 Olympic champions – 4/4 years old.
As you can see, most champions started skating at 4-5 years old which is considered to be the best age to start figure skating.
Is it possible to make it to the Olympics if you started skating late?
When I say late, I mean probably 8 years and older.
To answer the question above – yes, it’s very much possible. Let me name you a few well-known skaters who started taking figure skating lessons as they were 8 years and older;
Roman Kostomarov is a Russian ice dancer, he started skating at 9 years old and won a gold medal at the 2006 Olympic Games in Turin;
Guillaume Cizeron is also an ice dancer, he started skating at 8 years old and he is a 3-time World champion and silver medalist at the 2018 Olympics. With his partner, Gabriella Papadakis, they’ll be going for gold at the next Olympics.
Evan Lysacek is an American male skater, 2009 World, and 2010 Olympic champion. He started skating at the age of 8 in 1994 and just a few years later in 1996 he already won the US national title at the Juvenile level. It shows how talented Lysacek was and that he was a very fast learner which is rare for such a technical sport like figure skating.
Johnny Weir is a perfect example of a figure skater that had a very late start to his career and was able to make it to the top international level. Weir started taking figure skating lessons at 12 years old. He was learning extremely fast and just 4 years after he started skating, he won the Junior Worlds (he came ahead of Lysacek who started skating 4 years earlier than Weir).
In the end, Johnny Weir won the US National title three times, a bronze medal at 2008 Worlds, finished 5th at 2006 Olympics and 6th at the 2010 Olympics.
Adam Rippon is yet another American male skater in this list of the figure skaters who started late. Adam was 10 years old when his mom brought him to the ice rink. 9 years after he began skating, Rippon won the 2008 Junior World Championships. At that competition, Adam came up ahead of the Russian skater Artem Borodulin (he was skating since he was 5), Kevin Reynolds (5 as well), Brandon Mroz (3,5 years old) and Florent Amodio (4 years old). In the end, Adam Rippon won a bronze medal in the figure skating team event at the 2018 Olympic Games.
Chris Knierim is an American pair skater, he started skating at age 12. With his partner and wife Alexa, they are two-time US National champions and 2018 Olympics bronze medalists in the team event.
Petri Kokko is a former competitive ice dancer from Finland. Kokko like most Finnish guys used to play hockey but started taking figure skating lessons at the age of 14. He became the 1995 European champion, silver medalist at the 1995 World Championships, and twice competed at the Olympic Games.
As you can see from these examples, it’s possible to succeed in figure skating even if a skater had a late start. It’s especially true for ice dance and pair skating where competitive careers are a little bit longer in comparison to single skating.
In general, figure skating is a sport for young athletes very similar to gymnastics. And just like for gymnastics, a career life of a figure skater is significantly shorter than of athletes of most sports. There are not many skaters of 30 and older that are still competing. It’s considered normal for figure skating when 15, 16, 17-year-old girls dominate and win everything in the world.