Axel and Double Axel: The Step (Michelle Leigh)

Olympic coach Michelle Leigh continues her work with a skater on double axel.  The previous video was focused on axel exercises at the wall where Michelle emphasized the sideways nature of the take-off and the pivot before the skater leaves the ice.  In this video, Michelle focuses on the step or the desired body position on the forward take-off edge.  (Please note the similarity between Michelle’s description of this position and that of another Olympic coach, Tom Zakrajsek in his axel video series.)

Near the end of the video Michelle explains the importance of the forward step.  She says, “In order for skaters to control the jump, I think the first thing that’s important is that you control the step and you have good body awareness.  We need to be fully in control of where we step, consistent, start on a consistent pattern so you’re always doing it the same way.”  She continues, “Let’s move at our natural rhythm.  Not because we’re swinging.”  What she means is if a skater is not in complete control rotationally on the forward edge, the timing of the jump is determined by the uncontrolled rotation.  This makes developing good technique and consistency very difficult.  Typically, any axel that is not in control rotationally on the step tends to have timing that is too fast and the take-off swings around.

On the step, Michelle wants the skater to have good posture.  More importantly, she says “I want to develop a really good balanced position with lots of power with our skating side leading.”  Michelle initially makes sure the skater can control the forward edge by stepping from a forward outside edge onto the take-off edge and maintain control.  With the skater already forward, Michelle minimizes the rotational energy created from a step from a back outside edge.  Notice the position Michelle wants.  She wants the skater to be “still” on the edge, showing full control.  Michelle wants close hands and she gives a great tip about taking the hands back to the skater’s back pockets.  She also doesn’t want excessive knee bend.  After demonstrating control from a forward entry, Michelle then has the skater use a back outside edge entry.  This is more challenging to maintain full control because there’s some additional rotational energy from the backwards-to-forwards movement that needs to be controlled.

NOTE:  Michelle does not want a skater to step with their shoulders square, even if they can control it.  She notes that it’s much harder to generate the necessary edge power from this position.

The information in this video applies at every level of skating.  Every skater beginning to work on a waltz jump should be taught these principles.  So even though Michelle is working on the double axel with this skater, the information is applicable to every coach and every skater, regardless of level.


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