For those of you who aren't good at converting words into movement -- and because I'm doing animated ads for Circlet now and need practice at giffing things without being completely incompetent -- here are a couple of animation showing what the feet do for an axel jump. Specifically, this is what my feet are up to. For a counterclockwise jumper, mirror everything.

Everything starts going backwards with a crossover. Crossovers are how you get going a million miles an hour, especially around a curve. Ice skates are broadly Newtonian; objects in motion will stay in motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an outside force. Since the walls of the rink curve, you also want to curve, unless you're dead-set on embarrassing yourself by smacking into the boards. To do this, you plant the foot on the outside of the curve on the ice and never lift it -- a bit counter-intuitive for hockey players who are used to shoving off sideways to get going in a straight line. The inside foot starts out level with and parallel to the outside foot, but then pushes diagonally outwards. This both boosts you backwards and forces you towards the middle of the rink (i.e., off of the tangent line you would otherwise follow), causing your path to curve.

The outside foot keeps going, passing behind the crossover foot as it shoves. To complete the crossover and start another one, you lift the crossing foot off of the ice and plant it back in its original position, next to the outside foot, and shove off diagonally again. The radius of the curve depends on exactly how sideways you shove the inside foot while it's crossing in front of you. You can do the same thing while going forwards, with the crossing foot passing behind you, but all the really fancy jumps start with you whizzing backwards, for some reason I have yet to figure out.

The takeoff for an axel starts partway through a crossover. You get to the part where you would normally lift the crossing foot off the ice, but instead of putting it back to its original position so that you can crossover again, you swing it all the way around, a hundred and eighty degrees, using your opposite hip as a hinge, so that you can plant that foot going forward along your axis of travel. You do this by making sure all of your weight is on the back outside edge of the blade on the foot that you weren't taking off the ice during the crossovers -- that's the distal dorsal quadrant, for medical people -- and shoving very very hard sideways into the ice.

It seems like you shouldn't be able to do that, but you can, and you have to. There's a story about Katarina Witt, celebrated jumper, where she took off for a triple axel in practice and somehow left a blade wedged in the ice, and didn't even notice until she came down without it, on what was basically an ordinary shoe. You land on the foot you didn't take off from, so the only way she could have done that was by jamming the blade of that chase leg into the rink so hard it popped off the stanchion and stayed there when she launched from the other foot.

Once you plant your launch blade down, you roll onto the front outside edge -- distal ventral quadrant -- and also jam that blade very very hard sideways into the ice. This one you technically don't have to, but it's specifically in the rules that doing so is not a technical deduction from your score, and a lot of skaters do. Using that as leverage, you lift the chase skate from the ice and begin swinging that entire half of your body around to the front, continuing the rotation you've already started. A split second after you've got that started, you can let go of the leverage you were getting from shoving that front outside edge into the ice, and roll onto the toe of that skate, throwing yourself upwards and a little forwards.

An axel is listed as a 1.5 revolution jump; technically, it's two full turns, but the first half-turn takes place before you leave the ice. It's also, I've noted, easier to do on the floor than most of the others, as neither the rotation nor the jump depend on any movement you could only accomplish on the ice, e.g., gliding backwards at high speeds. The landing is a little harder, as you stop short on the floor where you would continue traveling on ice. I've seen the pros do these things mainly with socks on carpet or sneakers on flooring. You can hop-hop-hop the landing to bleed off linear velocity when you touch down, but you can't do them in socks or dance slippers on flooring, because the turns depend on being able to make your foot 'catch' when pushed sideways across the surface.

Maybe now you all see what I mean when I say that not only is it pretty evident how to do it right, but I can't figure out how to do it wrong. It would be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to get your weight on any other edges of the skate while doing anything that looked even remotely like this. It must be possible for some of the other jumps, and people must do it, because you get your score knocked down for taking off of the wrong edge. I can work out how that might happen on, say, a salchow, but I'm at a loss as to how you'd do it for this one. Similar logic works for the landing. I'm landing on my left foot, trying to brake a clockwise spin; the back outside (distal dorsal) edge of that foot is just where my weight fetches up, especially if I'm trying to land in arabesque.

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