Have you ever found yourself gripping the armrests of your couch when it becomes clear the Olympic figure skater is beginning their approach to what is sure to be a major jump? Jumps in skating are one of the most exciting, technically-challenging components of a routine — and what we all talk about and remember when the performance is over. The slightest of technical flaws during figure skating jumps are often what separate Olympic medal winners from the rest of the competition, and it’s usually the jumps that really exemplify the athletic prowess of the best figure skaters.
Get to know the primary figure skating jumps your favorite Olympic figure skaters will be showcasing in their routines at the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympic in Beijing, which are detailed below.
Although every figure skating routine is unique in some way, there are only six recognized jumps in competitive figure skating: the toe loop, the Salchow, the loop, the flip, the Lutz, and the Axel. Each jump may be completed as a half, single, double, or quadruple, which refers to the number of rotations completed mid-air. Women competing in the Olympics usually complete triple jumps (such as a triple Axel or a triple toe loop), which involves three or three and a half rotations while male figure skaters at the Olympic level typically perform quadruple (four rotations) jumps.
These six recognized figure skating jumps can be divided into two groups: edge jumps and toe jumps. “Edge” jumps, which include the loop, the Salchow, and the Axel, are executed by the skater generating power by bending the knee prior to jumping into the air, relying solely on momentum from their blade to power the jump. The free foot does not contact the ice prior to taking off. In contrast, “toe” jumps, which include the toe loop, the flip, and the Lutz, are executed by the skater launching their body off the ice by using the toe pick on their skate. The toe pick is the jagged portion of the skate right at the very tip at the front of the blade.
The toe loop is differentiated by the loop jump by the use of the toe pick. In the toe jump, the skater approaches the jump by skating backward on the back outside edge of one skate, then uses the free foot to plant the toe pick into the ice and launch the jump, and lands on the same back outside edge of the skate they took off from.
The flip is one of the toe jumps in figure skating because the skater uses the toe pick on their free foot to help propel their body into the air. With the flip jump, the skater takes off from the back inside edge of one of their skates and lands the jump on the back outside edge of the other skate.
The Lutz is a toe-pick-assisted figure skating jump named after Alois Lutz, the Austrian figure skater who invented the jump and first performed it in 1913. The skater approaches the jump by skating backward forming a wide curve, then takes off from the back outside edge of one of their skates, planting the toe pick into the ice, and launching into the air, rotating in the opposite direction from the lead-up backward curve they had skated prior to take off. The skater lands the Lutz on the outside edge of the skate on the opposite foot from the launching one.
Named after 10-time world champion Swedish skater, Ulrich Salchow, the Salchow is an edge jump in figure skating that involves taking off from the back inside edge of one skate and landing on the back outside edge of the other skate.
The loop is the simplest figure skating jump. It is performed by taking off from the back outside edge of either skate and landing on that same edge on the same skate. The basic loop jump in figure skating is an edge jump because the toe pick isn’t used, but there is also a toe loop in which it is.
The Axel is a forward-facing jump and the only figure skating jump in which skaters launch from a forward outside edge of their skate. It is named after its inventor, Norwegian figure skater Axel Paulson, who first performed it in 1882. The Axel is always a minimum of 1.5 rotations because it involves landing on the back outside edge of the skate on the foot that’s opposite from their launching foot. In other words, if the skater takes off from their right foot, they must land the Axel on their left foot. As such, a double Axel is 2.5 rotations, a triple axel is 3.5 rotations, and a quadruple Axel is an impressive 4.5 rotations.
Every element in a figure skating routine has a certain base value of points for scoring purposes according to its level of difficulty, and jumps are no exception. In fact, there’s an official Scale of Values (SOV) table that explicitly delineates the base value for every jump based on both the level of difficulty and the number of rotations. For example, a toe loop is a much easier jump than an axel, so it has a lower base value. Similarly, a single of any jump is worth less than a double, which is less than a triple, which is less than a quadruple because it’s more difficult to execute additional rotations. Skaters also receive a Grade of Execution score, which reflects how beautiful the figure skating jump is — how high they jump, the power, the gracefulness, and so on.
The potential points earned for the jumps in figure skating are as follows:
- Toe Loop: Of all the figure skating jumps, toe loops are worth the least. The base value of a triple toe loop, for example, is just 4.3 points. The maximum score from a toe loop is 10.3 points.
- Flip: The flip is slightly more involved because the skater lands on the inside edge after taking off on the outside edge of the skate, so they can earn up to 12.3 points.
- Lutz: The Lutz is the highest-scoring toe jump with a maximum of 13.6 points. The base value of a quadruple Lutz is 11.5 points.
- Salchow: The Salchow is the lowest-scoring edge jump, barely edging out the toe loop, with a maximum score of 10.5 points.
- Loop: The base value of a triple loop is 5.1 points, but the loop can earn up to 12.0 points.
- Axel: Axels in figure skating can earn the most points as they are the most difficult jumps in figure skating. The base value of a triple Axel is 8.0 points and is 15.0 points for a quadruple axel, though no figure skater has yet landed a quadruple Axel in competition.
When figure skaters plan their routines, they will sequence certain jumps together to earn more points. Not only are the individual jumps worth a certain number of points, but attempting combinations of jumps earns additional points based on the difficulty of the jump sequence and how it’s executed.
Jump Combinations refer to two jumps performed back to back, one immediately after the other such that the skater must take off for the second jump on the same foot on which the first jump was landed without pause and without switching feet. In a Jump Sequence, the jumps are more loosely connected because the skater links two or more jumps with hops, uncategorized jumps, steps, or turns. That said, Jump Sequences aren’t a free-for-all; the sequence must have a constant rhythm from start to end, and crossovers or more than one revolution on the ice prior to any hop or jump is not permitted.
To date, no skater has landed a quadruple Axel in competition yet, though Japanese champion skater, Yuzuru Hanyu, attempted one in 2021. However, he had a two-footed landing so the figure skating jump was downgraded. He still won the competition handily.
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