One of the great things about adult competitions, whether ISI or USFS, is that anyone can compete. These events are very inclusive by statute and culture, and from all reports are marvelously affirming for everyone who attends and competes.
I'm very excited because USFS Adult Nationals are in Chicagoland this year, so I'm going to get to attend some events, including a couple of events that friends of mine are skating in.
There are about 90,000 ways to qualify for skating in an event, starting with "take a test, sign a form, pay your money." But even so, there is some prestige attached to these, and many former high-level competitors skate in Adult Nationals. (You cannot skate the same event in both standard qualifying events and Adult. That is, if you skate Men's Singles at Sectionals, you cannot skate it at Adult Nationals or Sectionals).
If you win, you get your picture in USFS Magazine.
At US qualifying events, there are many levels, but only one track. That is, you skate your test level, Juvenile through Senior, but everyone with a Juvenile test skates the same overall event. At Adult Nationals there are three "tracks" in which to compete:
"Metal" levels (sic, my word)- gold silver bronze
Skaters competing Gold, Silver, or Bronze have passed Adult track tests at that level, and did not attempt to "qualify" by competing at a Sectionals competition. In other words, anyone can sign up and compete in these levels.
Masters levels (Intermediate, Novice, Junior, Senior)
These skaters have passed standard track tests either as an adult or as an "amateur" skater (i.e. child). It's a little confusing, because whereas you cannot compete Adult Nationals in the Masters level under the age of 21 (a new rule; it used to be 25), I believe that there actually is not an upper age limit to competing in USFS qualifying competitions and Championships at the Senior level.
What these skaters have not done is "qualify" for Nationals through Adult Sectionals. Again, you takes your test, you pays your money, you skates your program.
There are Championship levels in both the metal track and the Masters track (again, just a designation as to which track--standard or adult--you took your tests at). The difference is that the Championship skaters have qualified through Adult Sectionals, and only the podium from the six Sectional competitions gets to skate these. It's simply a way to select out the highest quality skaters. And they are pretty damn good. You get triples and one-armed press lifts in the Championship Masters at the Junior/Senior level at Adult Nationals.
So you're not actually qualifying for Adult Nats; anyone can skate if they've got the qualifying test. You're specifically qualifying for this level.
There are TONS of events at Adult Nationals, as there are in ISI Nationals--light entertainment, solo dance, open dance, singles, pairs, dramatic skate, et cetera. This is to keep it open to as many types of skaters as possible-- even if you don't have the jumps, you can still compete, and compete well and entertainingly, at your competence.
Again, with inclusiveness as a goal, events are also segregated by age, with five age categories, essentially twentysomethings, thirtysomethings, fortysomethings, fiftyohgodmyknees, and sixty plus. Championship events are not age segregated.
In other words, they give out lots and lots of medals at Adult Nationals. If you're in the Chicago area, check it out. Adult Nationals will be at the Edge Ice Arena in Bensenville April 10 to 14.