On the Triple Axel

May 2, 2014 § Leave a comment

Hardcore and casual figure skating fans know much more figure skating knowledge than they realize. They know there’s a whole bunch of jumps, many ways to spin (upright, sitting, leaning back), and that the magical footwork sequences that Charlie and Meryl, et al pull out of thin air shouldn’t be recreated at home. That said, it’s time to deconstruct and explain one of the most mystical technical elements that a figure skater can do: a triple axel.

As well-known as the Iron Lotus and Chazz Michael Michaels’ interpretive dancing, the triple axel is in everyone’s figure skating lexicon (much easier to say; most don’t want their bae to catch them slipping while dropping “salchow”, “camel”, “twizzles” in normal conversation). However, would we be able to identify a triple axel?

Bro, Do You Even Single Axel Tho?

Considered a single jump, the single axel contains 1.5 revolutions, requiring a skater to go around all 540 degrees. If landed correctly in competition using ISJ scoring, the jump is worth 1.1 points. At the lower levels, this jump alone ends up separating those who skate all the way through high school from those who quit much earlier. This jump ends up being the gateway towards achieving doubles and eventually triples.

Here’s a cool video on what a single axel looks like.

"I just want to see triple axels, not read what it's about."

“I just want to see triple axels, not read what it’s about!!1!!” Might want to skip ahead to “What about triple axels?”

You’ll recognize when most skaters are attempting an axel jump when they first prepare for the jump, starting at 0:10 of the video until 0:20. Her weight is over her right leg, her trajectory going counter-clockwise because she’s on her back outside edge (her weight is specifically over her right leg, over the right side of her right foot).

The Takeoff (Gliding, 0:24-0:29)

The skater then plants her left skate onto the ice, also bringing her arms back. She’ll pass the right leg through along with the arms and launch herself up facing forward without any excess swinging motion.

The Jump and the Landing (Pivot and Landing, 0:33-0:47)

After launching herself forward and doing the prerequisite 180 degree turn, she still needs to finish off one more revolution before her jump is considered an axel by the judges. The skater finishes off her jump by coordinating her arms and feet simultaneously. Her arms are passing forward and gather while the left leg crosses over the right leg, all to conserve angular momentum and quickly rotate before landing the jump.

Thanks, Channing.

No excess movements, an equal balance of weight. Any slight tilt in her air position would send her off-balance, making it harder to land the jump and earn a lot of points.

What about Triple Axels?

A triple axel landed correctly is worth 8.5 points and contains 3.5 revolutions. It no longer is the highest scoring jump in competition but it’s still required by all male skaters at the international level. Because it isn’t required of them to include triple axels in theirs, only one female skater routinely puts it in her competition programs. What does a triple axel look like?

 trplaxel1

Same gliding into the take-off and a badass landing to finish, just 720 more degrees to get around to count it as a triple. As for the revolutions, the skater completes one revolution on their way up, one revolution at the apex of the flight, and one final revolution on the way down before the landing.

Here’s Mao Asada of Japan, taking care of business with this triple axel.

Mao Asada, cool as the other side of the pillow.

Mao Asada, cool as the other side of the pillow.

***

That’s the triple axel, figure skating lexicon that you won’t be embarrassed to say because you know what’s behind it now. It’s no quad jump but it’s still the bees knees amongst figure skating fans, casual and veteran fans alike. Now you too can understand more about what Scott Hamilton and Sandra Bezic (nobodylikesSandraBezic) Johnny Weir, Tara Lipinski and Terry Gannon are saying.

thefigureskatinglawyer

2013 Intercollegiate Nationals Predictions

April 10, 2013 § Leave a comment

lol, this probably isn’t the last time I discuss things about 2013 Intercollegiate Nationals. Your Cal Golden Bears continue counting down until the weekend of April 12th-14th, when they fly out of the San Francisco Bay Area region and into Mordor, New Hampshire in three days. They will try to stop Sauron and the figure skating Uruk-hai from winning their 2nd consecutive title and 7th overall.

The nine teams participating in 2013 US Intercollegiate Nationals are UC Berkeley, UCLA, University of Denver, Adrian College, University of Michigan, University of Miami Ohio, Boston University, University of Delaware, and defending champion Dartmouth College. I hope this is big enough to see (TWSS).

Sacred Heart/New Mexico, I know you're mad BUT THIS IS HOW WE GET ANTS.

Sacred Heart/New Mexico, I know you’re mad BUT THIS IS HOW WE GET ANTS.

Unless you attend the intercollegiate championships yourself or a generous historian shares pictures of the results in real-time, you and I have no way (until June/July) to find out in-depth results of how all nine participating colleges did. In the meantime, let’s discuss some final storylines going into the championship event and make up reasons to insert some pictures.

Trip to Nationals, written in the starz.

Trip to Nationals, written in the starz.

“Water is Wet” Kind of Predictions

  • Dartmouth, first place. University of Delaware Blue Hens and Cal Golden Bears may object but hey, Sauron’s gonna Sauron and plunder the competition. They’re only going to get stronger when more figure skaters flock to this championship-caliber team, including Skating Club of San Francisco’s Maddy Thornton. She will easily make it past the tryouts and earn points for her team during her undergraduate career.
  • High team maneuvers require at least a double axel for one of the required elements. The high-level male skaters that teams have recently added will up the stakes and require teams to throw down the fabled Iron Lotus triple axels. It’s probably difficult to recognize one if you’ve never seen a triple axel, even if it roundhouse kicked you in the face and introduced itself to you as a triple axel.
  • Unless you check the Midwestern Conference standings, you probably didn’t realize the Wisconsin Honey Badgers were replaced by Adrian Bulldogs.
  • If this championship event was held in Colorado, skaters entered in the maximum of five events would just lament everything. Five events with limited oxygen at 5000 feet above sea level? LOL F**K THAT. It may be a wee bit more doable when Hanover is only 150 feet above sea level but Godspeed to our friends doing long and short programs, two dance events, and one team maneuver event.
  • Andrew Korda of Boston University will skate against himself in the beginner men’s event. As an international level ice dancer, he’s going to incorporate a level 4 straight line step sequence into his program that has five single jumps (no axels) and two spins (no flying entrances). Good luck to you, Andrew Korda.
"Beginner."  ಠ_ಠ

“Beginner.” ಠ_ಠ

  • Hartford, CT is so close to New Hampshire. Looks like Professor Taryn Brandt will be bringing in some new Zumba playlists for the Western Conference locker room.
  • Dartmouth competition chair Jacki Smith will provide the males a males-only locker room because for the sanctity of figure skating, we cannot let the public see male breasts and pelvic regions. Thanks, Ms. Smith.
  • Looks like we’re traveling to the Midwest for Intercollegiates next year.
Quick, Southwest Airlines. Do a barrel roll!

Quick, Southwest Airlines. Do a barrel roll!

Superb Old Predictions

(or Terribly Wrong Predictions, amirite?)

(or Terribly Wrong Predictions, amirite?)

  • If you shift the “b” from one word to the other in “Super Bass” … oh my.
  • Breakout Skater: Rylie Pepich, University of Denver
    • 5th in novice short and 10th in novice long in last year’s Nationals has nowhere to go but further up the standings this year. The current president of the team was granted a waiver to compete at Nationals this year because she is transferring to the University of Seattle, making this her final intercollegiate skating competition in crimson and gold. Expect Rylie to be the inspirational skater that she always is, and to see her in the top 5 in both events. Good luck.
  • Breakout Team: Adrian Bulldogs, Adrian, Michigan
    • Miami (Ohio) and Michigan are most likely bringing teams to Hanover similar to the ones they brought to Colorado Springs last year. I don’t see a way for those two to crack the podium. In any event though, the team that can spoil anybody dreams of winning a big, shiny trophy, it will be the Bulldogs. Finishing in fifth place in their first ever regional competition, Adrian College proceeds to win the final two regional competitions, propelling them past perennial Intercollegiate Nationals contenders Michigan, Miami, and Wisconsin. It makes me think that Bulldogs could scare the shit out of some Blue Hens, Terriers, or maybe even some Golden Bears.
  • Laney Diggs and Sravani Kondapavulur will finish in the top 5 in their senior short and championship ladies event.
  • Sean Sunyoto will beat his sister Amanda in the final sibling match-up. He’ll also win both senior men’s events.
  • Teressa Vellrath will place in the top 2 in her international and gold solo dance events.
  • Gritty veteran figure skater Marissa Minovitz will come through in the clutch in the junior ladies events.
  • I’m willing to bet that there are at least four teams that employ skaters who can land triple axels.
  • I’m also willing to bet that we’ll hear various renditions of Claire De Lune four times this weekend. At least the narrative of skaters loving their sport is a better love story than Twilight.
  • Cal Berkeley will make it into the podium this year and let Brock award the pewter badges to another team. Sorry, Boston University.
  • UCLA will not crack the podium this year. When they get back Emily Chan, Mericien Venzon, Maddison Bullock and a few more competitors, they too will become an unstoppable force in intercollegiate skating. They aren’t Bruining Cal’s weekend though.

Cal Figure Skating is currently enjoying a time where all skaters it participates in Intercollegiate Nationals year after year, but potentially rank in the top third of the standings every single time. When their plane(s) touch down on the San Francisco International Airport tarmac Sunday evening, they’ll have a bigger, shinier trophy to show for it. Skate on, you Bears.

:')

:’)

thefigureskatinglawyer

For Want of a Triple Axel

April 7, 2013 § Leave a comment

For want of a triple axel, inside/outside edges were lost.

For want of inside/outside edges, transitions were lost.

For want of transitions, jumps and spins were lost.

For want of jumps and spins, the motivation to continue skating was lost.

All for the want of a triple axel.

If I want a triple axel someday, I’m probably going to have to start with just 1 (one) axel first. Before I can determine that I am serious enough to get one axel down, I have to make sure I have my fundamentals down first. To do otherwise would be like teaching a baby to run 5Ks and half-marathons before it can even crawl. Seems legit… ಠ_ಠ

But I want a triple axel now, now, now!

But I want a triple axel now, now, now!

Well alright, Veruca Salt. You first need to show that you got your fundamentals down, showing qualified judges that you know how to do what every other figure skater knows how to do since figure skating first grade.

How Do I Do That?

You take figure skating tests. Assuming that you are a member of the skating club that hosts these tests, then they should be open to you to see what kind of figure skating skills you have.

LOL FUCK THAT, AM I RIGHT?

LOL F**K THAT, AM I RIGHT?

Don’t worry, there’s no essays to write and the only people doing any writing are the figure skating judges. All you have to show in your “moves in the field” test is proper edges (balancing on the sides of your feet), proper posture and extension skating around the ice in both directions, showing off proper height and leg placement in your spirals, and skating what resembles a figure eight pattern. If you’re doing the “free skate” test, you just have to show that you can land some jumps, get three to four revolutions on a certain spin(s), and get your transitions down without look like a clumsy idiot.

That's all I have to do? Why didn't you tell me sooner?

That’s all I have to do? Why didn’t you tell me sooner?

Good Question, Ms. Jennifer Lawrence

All of the tests that require the basic tenets of proper edge work, posture, agility, and noiseless grace across the ice sound simple. In order to complete all the patterns required of you though, these tests require constant practice on and off the ice for months, if not years. The practice time will get you confident with when you go forwards or backwards, when you do every pattern on your strong AND weak sides, memorizing the order of the patterns and actively thinking about every component of the specific pattern you’re skating, and keeping your arm and leg positions where they need to be on every pattern, including the spiral sequences.

609px-Michelle_Kwan_Spiral

Thanks, Michelle. Photographer: Kevin Rushforth

You also spend a lot of the time working on increasing the strength of your arms, legs, hips, knees, quads, and hamstrings. Not only that, but you’re also working on increasing your cardio endurance. It’d be a shame…

... if you failed the test due to shitty cardio.

… if you failed any test level due to shitty cardio.     ಠ_ಠ

Day of The Test

If your home skating club posts the test schedule online, check online or check in with the test chair, the person in charge or arranging the order and the schedule of the test. If there’s a big bulletin board where you can check the schedule, it’d be best to be familiar of when your warm-up is and what time you’re performing your test. That way, you know what time to get to the rink (before the warm-up) in order have time and check in with the test chair, pay the test chair for the test if you haven’t paid yet, stretch, change into acceptable clothing for the tests, and start getting mentally in the zone.

Acceptable clothing for ladies is something they’d wear in a competition, like a sparkly or a more low-key figure skating dress. Guys have to wear trousers (no tights) and either a figure skating top or a button-down collared shirt. Warm-up and practice your patterns while managing to avoid other skaters getting in their final rehearsals. After the general warm-up, get off the ice and wait your turn until you have to perform your test.

Your judges can be anywhere from super strict to a wee bit more lenient. Depending on the level of your test, you may get one judge or three judges to scrutinize your performance. Head over to the judges to go over some procedural things first before you perform your test. After each pattern, present yourself as ready to go to the next pattern but do not skate until the judge is finished writing notes for the last pattern you finished. Other than that, stay loose, breathe, and don’t rush anything to the point where you’ll make mistakes.

After The Test(s)

Unless you’re doing multiple figure skating tests, you’ll review the results and the judges notes with your coach if your coach is present. Thank the test chair for putting on the test, as well as the judges for taking the time out of their schedule to judge your test(s). Generally, the mood is pretty pleasant when a majority of people pass their tests that they’ve been working hard on.

Celebrate!

Boom.

If you failed your test, you have to wait a month before you can take the same test again. If your coach is present, they will tell you what went right and what went wrong according to their observations and a copy of the judges’ notes. If your parents are present, they either support you or berate you for not being focused enough. Because as a parent, yelling at a kid who failed their test makes things a lot better, am I right? ಠ_ಠ

Try not to.

Try not to.

After that, wish the rest of the skaters luck. Acknowledge the hard work that went into preparing for all these tests. Then, treat yourself to a good brunch or dinner because you earned it.

thefigureskatinglawyer

P.S.: I passed my first test this past Saturday. Whooooooooooo!

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