How to

10 November 2016

Understanding the Jump Variations in Competitive Figure Skating

Figure skating has been a staple of the Winter Olympics since the first ever winter games way back in 1924, and has managed to maintain a consistent level of mainstream popularity ever since. Figure skating is still often the most-viewed event during the Winter Olympics;. in fact, of all the various sports included in the Winter Olympics, only freestyle skiing and ice hockey tend to get anywhere near the interest that figure skating garners.

There is certainly an intriguing grace to the discipline; a freedom in the athletes’ motions that draws you in as you watch with bated-breath to see if they’ll shine or stumble. Unfortunately, for those of us who have never engaged in the sport ourselves, it can be difficult to discern the individual jumps, turns and spins as the athlete in question morphs into a high-speed blur. We cheer when they land, but we’re not really sure what exactly they just landed; it’s a strange dynamic to say the least.

In an effort to be able to watch the next Winter Olympics wearing an expression other than gormless wonder for a change, I’ve dedicated a bit of time to gaining an understanding of the most commonly seen jumps in the sport. From launch to landing, the following should help you to recognise the individual jumps being performed, and hopefully enjoy the discipline a little more once you know what you’re actually watching.

Toe Jumps & Edges

Before we can get started on the 6 most commonly performed jumps in competitive figure skating, it is important to understand the two categories into which they are divided; toe jumps (including the Toe Loop, the Flip and the Lutz) and edges (including the Salchow, the Loop and the Axel).

The distinction between the two is actually fairly simple; to perform a toe jump, the skater plants the toe-pick of their free skate into the ice and uses this to help propel them into the jump. With an edge jump, the skater simply relies on their knees to launch. By identifying their approach, you can tell whether a skater is attempting a toe jump or an edge, helping you to narrow down their exact jump of choice before they even leave the ice.

Now that you understand the differentiation between toe jumps and edges, let’s move onto the jumps themselves.

The Toe Loop

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The first of the toe jumps and the lowest point-scorer among the 6 jumps discussed here, the Toe Loop consists of launching from the back outside edge of the skate, landing at the same point upon completion of the loop.

The Flip

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The Flip is fairly similar in principle to the Toe Loop, being another toe-pick-assisted jump, with a couple of defining differences. The jump is launched from the back inside edge, rather than the outside like the Toe Loop, and is landed on the opposite foot.

The Lutz

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The only real difference between the Lutz and the aforementioned Flip is the edge from which the skater takes off, launching from the back outside edge and landing on the opposite foot. The Lutz poses an extra challenge due to the fact that it is counter-rotated, with the rotation of the jump itself directly opposing the entry. The Lutz is named after Austrian skater Alois Lutz, who first performed the jump in 1913.

The Salchow

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The Salchow is the first of the edge jumps to be discussed here, meaning that the skater uses their knees to launch, rather than making use of the toe-pick. The Salchow, named after Swedish skater Ulrich Salchow who invented the move in 1909, starts from the back inside edge and lands on the back outside edge of the opposite foot.

The Loop

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As the name suggests, the Loop is essentially the same as a Toe loop, but without making use of the toe-pick for assistance. The skater launches from the back outside edge, landing on the same edge, also on the same foot.

The Axel

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The Axel, named for Norwegian skater Axel Paulson following his creation of the move in 1882, is the only jump to feature a forward approach. Considered to be the most difficult jump to complete successfully and therefore the highest point-scorer, the Axel takes off from the forward outside edge and lands on the opposite foot. The forward approach to this jump necessitates and extra half-rotation, which is where the difficulty arises. Very few women throughout history have landed the infamous Triple Axel; Japanese figure skater Mao Asada gained widespread recognition during the 2010 Winter Olympics due to this fact, where the three-time world champion became the first woman to complete three triple Axel jumps in one competition.

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.