Figure Skating Jumps
Professional figure skaters may make leaps and twirls in the air look effortless, but these figure skating jumps have an intricate series of entries, rotations, landings and edges behind them.
Figure skating jumps have come a long, long way from the early years when female figure skating rebel Sonja Henie caused a stir by wearing a knee-length skirt on the ice, and they have since evolved from simple half-rotation jumps to daring quadruple-rotation feats that few are brave enough to perform.
Although intricate footwork and clean edges are important skating elements, the jumps and spins are at the heart of the sport. Some moves, like the flying sit spin invented in the early 1900s by Gillis Grafström, incorporate the two.
Most figure skating injuries occur while the skaters are performing
jumps. To minimize the risks, skaters wear special boots when performing
freestyle routines that are cut higher to provide more support to the
ankle. Many skaters go so far as to have boots custom-fitted with additional plates at the ankle for support to avoid injuries on the ice while jumping. Even the blades used for jumping are slightly different. Freestyle blades have a more pronounced toe pick to accommodate the type of jumps known as toe jumps.
One of the first things a figure skater learns is the different edges. Unlike hockey skates, figure skating blades are curved with two edges, one on the right of each blade and one on the left. The edge on the right of the right foot and the left side of the left foot is called an outside edge. The others are called inside edges, as they are on the inside portion of the foot.
The three elements that determine the difficulty of a jump are whether it is executed starting with an inside or outside edge, whether the skater takes off from a forward or backwards position and whether or not the toe pick is used to facilitate the launch into the air. Jumps are classified as either an edge jump, or one that is launched using body strength from a sharp edge, or a toe jump, one that uses the toe pick for its launch.
Just like some people are right-handed and others are lefties, most figure skaters perform their jumps and spins in a counter-clockwise direction although some perform them going clockwise. In the mid 1900s, Carol Heiss-Jenkins became well known as the only skater to perform jumps and spins in both directions. Her trademark was a series of axel jumps performed in alternating clockwise and counter-clockwise directions.
There are two basic types of jumps in figure skating -- jumps that use the toe pick to launch into the air, called toe jumps, and jumps that use your body strength alone to launch, called edge jumps.
The axel, a more intricate variation of the waltz jump, was first performed by Norwegian skater Axel Paulsen in 1882. It is the only figure skating jump that takes off from a forward edge and lands on a backwards edge, making 1-1/2 in-air rotations rather than one. Double axels and triple axels with either 2-1/2 or 3-1/2 rotations are also common.
Begin the jump on a deep forward left-outside edge with the left leg extended behind you and arms outstretched and slightly behind. At the point of launch, bend down slightly on the left knee while bringing your arms in and up to your chest, drawing your right leg up at the same time. While in the air, keep your arms in, your head turned left to facilitate the rotations and your right leg crossed in front of your left. Perform the requisite rotations in the air and land on a backwards right outside edge, left leg behind you and arms outstretched.
How to Perform an Axel
Created by Swedish skater Ulrich Salchow in 1909, the Salchow is one of the easiest jumps for a beginning skater to learn. It is also one of the few jumps that professional skaters attempt with quadruple rotations.
The jump begins on a deep backward left inside edge with the right leg extended out and slightly behind. Both arms are extended with the left arm slightly forward and the right arm slightly behind the body. At the point of launch, deepen your inside edge and bend your left knee and then use your body strength alone to launch into the air. Bring your right leg around until it eventually crosses your left leg and draw your arms up and into your chest. Perform one, two, three or four rotations and land the jump on a backwards right outside edge, left leg behind and arms outstretched. Skaters often begin a Salchow on a deep left forward outside edge before executing a three-turn that puts them onto their left inside edge before beginning the jump.
How to Perform a Salchow
German figure skater Werner Rittberger is responsible for creating the loop jump in 1910. Unlike the Salchow and the axel that take off on the left foot and land on the right, the loop jump takes off and lands with the same foot.
Start on a deep backwards right outside edge with your left arm extended in front of you, the left arm extended behind you and the left leg slightly in front. When ready for launch, bend your right knee and push up to launch into the air. Draw your arms into your chest and bring your left leg slightly in before performing one, two or three rotations. Land the jump on a right back outside edge with arms outstretched and left leg extended behind you.
American figure skater Bruce Mapes brought us the flip jump in 1913 and the toe loop in 1920. The toe loop is fairly simple as toe jumps go, and is usually the first toe jump beginning figure skaters learn. Single, double and triple toe loops are commonplace for advanced skaters.
Begin the jump on a deep right back outside edge. Many skaters start the jump on a right inside edge before performing a three-turn that puts them on the right back outside edge. Extend your left arm in front of you and the right arm behind you. Reach back with your left foot and grab the ice with your left toepick to propel yourself into the air. Kick forward with your right foot, draw your arms in and to your chest, perform one, two or three revolutions and land on a back right outside edge with arms outstretched and left leg behind you.
Begin your flip jump from a back left inside edge with your left arm extended in front of you and the right arm behind you. Extend your left leg behind you, bend the right knee and grab the ice with your right toepick. Propel your body into the air, squaring off arms and legs at the point of impact. Draw your arms into your chest, bring your left leg in front of the right and perform one, two, three or four revolutions. Land on a back right outside edge with arms outstretched and left leg extended behind you.
The lutz, first performed in competition by Alois Lutz in 1913, is the most difficult of the toe jumps. It is almost identical to the flip jump, but instead of taking off from a back inside edge, the jump starts from a back outside edge. That may not seem like much of a difference, but it means that as you prepare for the jump, your body is actually turned in the opposite direction from the way the jump will go.
Start on a deep back left outside edge with your left arm outstretched in front of you, right arm and right leg behind. Your body should be leaning at a nice left angle. Bend your left knee and grab the ice behind you with the right toepick. Draw your arms into your chest, perform one, two, three or four counter-clockwise revolutions and land the jump on a strong back right outside edge with arms outstretched and left leg extended behind you.
There are many other small jumps that are either designed to help beginning skaters prepare for them more difficult ones or that are used as transition moves in a freestyle skating program. Most are either variations of one of the six basic jumps, like an inside or one-foot axel, while others only rotate one-half turn, like a half flip, walley, half loop or waltz jump. The split jump and the stag jump are technically toe jumps, but are based on leg placement rather than revoutions.
Can You Identify the Jumps?
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