Double Axel Development (Michelle Leigh)

World and Olympic coach Michelle Leigh begins a “double axel” class for more advanced skaters who are consistently landing axels and most if not all of the other double jumps. She starts by asking for super fast backspins as a way to get skaters comfortable rotating at the speeds necessary for double axel and triples. She has the skaters do 5 each, spinning as fast as they can.

Next, Michelle explains the benefit of “spinning fast” in twizzles. Because twizzles move across the ice, skaters are typically aware of direction and how many rotations they have done, whereas a backspin is stationary which makes it difficult to be aware of rotations. She then has the class do small waltz jumps with a twizzle rather than a traditional landing. In the development process, as soon as skaters can do a consistent single axel, Michelle has them do single axel into twizzle landings to start preparing for double axel. She makes the point that it’s not ideal “spending 3 years just stopping our axel” meaning it’s important to introduce the additional rotation as early as possible.

To simulate the axel take-off, Michelle begins with an exercise where the skater glides forward on two feet and does almost a hockey stop up to both toe picks, without a skid. This teaches the edge pressure needed for a double axel. Note the focus on head anchoring, and also notice the shoulders and arms continue to face in the jump direction. She then modifies the drill slightly to be done on only one foot, with an emphasis on the free leg position and movement, starting in the “check mark” position and ending in the “ninja leg” position at the take-off moment.

Ideally this one-foot drill glides and comes to a stop on the edge at the take-off point, but Michelle also shows a version where the skater does a three turn instead, and keeps gliding. She then modifies that exercise further to add the “snap” into the air position. She does this immediately after the “three turn” or “take-off moment” by pressing the axis foot down (but not all the way to the ice) and behind the non-axis foot which is still gliding after the 3-turn. Michelle wants the axis foot flexed (not pointed) so the axis leg is fully straightened and locked.

She then teaches the remainder of the “walk-through” by stepping down backward on the axis foot (after the turn and flex or the snap) while keeping the free foot across in “the eagle” with the body up and the axis leg straight. The rest of the motion has the skating knee bend, the body come forward, and the free foot shooting forward and then back and around to the final landing position. Michelle wants the knees “tight” in the eagle position which means she does not want skaters to open the free hip. When done correctly the head anchors until the three turn or snap. She has the skaters use the plexiglass so they can see themselves doing proper head anchoring.

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