Olympic coach Tom Zakrajsek teaches an axel class at the Grassroots to Champions Supercamp held in Faribault, MN in July/August 2013. This video is the second in a multi-part series by Tom sharing the information he covered in his classes at camp. In this first video of the axel class, he discussed warming up properly and shared details of the forward take-off edge.
In this video, Tom explains that skaters need to create the rotation or rotational energy for the jump from the free leg and the hips. In the previous video, Tom explained the proper body position when stepping onto this edge and here he goes into more detail about what actually happens. The simple drawing on the ice is priceless. It shows the edge and the path of the free leg (which is also the jump direction).
From a standstill, Tom offers three options for the starting position, and he notes that heel-to-heel is probably the easiest to master. He wants the skater to bend the knees before pushing onto the edge and then he wants to keep the right shoulder back. He repeats from before, “Left arm to right arm, low load.”
Next Tom goes over one of the most critical aspects of the axel. He talks about keeping the free shoulder back on the take-off edge and he discusses the timing. He wants the arms to go back as the skater pushes and loads the knee, and then the free leg bends behind (not straight!). An extremely common error when learning axel is keeping the free leg straight behind rather than bending it as Tom teaches, probably because so many skaters still learn a waltz jump this way and others use the straight leg behind them to help control the edge. But as Tom explains, the free leg should be bent!
Tom continues his explanation of the take-off movements by talking about the movement of the free leg. He wants it quick and he notes the free foot should pass close to the skating foot. For timing he says, “Arms, leg, arms.” One of the “secrets” of doing good axels is staying down in the skating knee while the free leg swings forward. This timing ensures that the the free foot is “in front” or “in the direction of the target” by the time the skater starts to press up out of the skating knee.
Tom says, “The whole time your free leg is moving, you are staying down in your left knee. You do not budge that left knee. So your arms and free leg are going to move, and you are not going to move on your standing leg.” He continues, “You’re going to stay there pressed over your left hip. So you’re not allowed to move up and down on the knee yet, and you’re not allowed to move outside the circle or twist your shoulders.” And although this may sound simple, this is the primary challenge of doing a good axel.