Figure Skating Jumps: Axel Class – Part 3 (Audrey Weisiger & Nick Perna)

Nick Perna and Audrey Weisiger continue their on-ice axel class at the 2010 G2C Extreme Supercamp.  In the first part of the class, they covered the proper setup and in the second part they covered the step forward.  In this part, they discuss the climb up into the axel.

Nick covers the details of stepping up into the jump with the details as follows:

1. The free leg swings straight through (direction is straight meaning directly at the jump landing, the leg is not straight),
2. The free leg and free foot remain flexed and the free foot passes very close to the skating foot,
3. The skating foot must turn on the ice before going up to the toe.

There are so many great observations in this video that are generally lost on most coaches and skaters.  First, Nick explains the free leg motion as going straight through.  This means the free leg does not swing around.  By asking the skater to keep the free leg and foot flexed, Nick is ensuring that the free foot can pass close to the skating foot and therefore go “straight through.”

Perhaps the most important part of this discussion and the part most often misunderstood is Nick’s explanation of the action of the skating foot.  Nick says, “The left foot is not just going to skate forward and go right up off the toe like a bunny hop.  We want some rotation created from the left foot.  It has to create it by turning on the ice and [then] going up to the toe.  It’s going to be a quarter turn.”  This implies that the jump takes off sideways from the jumping leg, and the skater has a deepening edge prior to reaching the toe pick.

To get the free foot to go straight through and the skating foot to turn on the ice, Nick explains the movement as two cars initially driving side-by-side but then one turning and one continuing straight.  As Nick notes, if both cars turn “you get a very swingy jump.  If both cars go straight you don’t get any rotation.”

Audrey makes it clear that a skater needs to jump straight up in an axel.  The skater does not jump out.  She says, “You’re not going to think of throwing yourself out in front.”  This is necessary to get a high jump.

Next, Audrey has the skaters do a drill at the wall. The purpose of this drill is to make sure the free foot goes straight.  Notice in Audrey’s demonstration that the hips are closed and the entire lower body is sideways at take-off.  However, the free leg has continued through in a straight line.  As Audrey notes, “if the [free] foot hits the barrier it means it swung around [incorrectly].”

The additional explanation that Nick gives with the assistance of the pole explains another very important aspect of axel (and particularly double and triple axel).  Nick is showing that the free foot should not cut across but rather it needs to go straight and then press down.  If it crosses where the pole was positioned, the jump will swing around (at least in the lower body).  {Sorry I didn’t get a good camera angle of this for you. -Trevor}  As Audrey notes, this is the number one reason that skaters fall outside the circle on axel but more typically on double and triple axel.  This is IMPORTANT!!!  Everyone needs to fully understand this concept as this is holding back so many good athletes from having a double axel.

At 4:06 into the video, Audrey gives a great demonstration of the main problems with most axels.  These problems stem from skaters being brainwashed into thinking they need to step up into an axel with a standard “h-position” with the free foot in front of the skating foot.  In reality, they need to allow the hips to turn into a nearly sideways take-off with the free foot moving in the direction of the flight path (sideways to the skating foot, not in front).

Editor’s notes:  Unfortunately, most coaches do not teach a deepening take-off edge where the skate turns on the ice before rocking to the toe pick, even though it’s correct and necessary.  Those knowledgeable coaches that do teach it this way use one of two proper ways of taking off for an axel so that the skating foot turns and the free foot goes straight.  One method has the hips opening so that the skater still feels an “h-position” with the free hip and leg while the skating foot and hip turn on the edge to create rotation.  This method is very difficult and only a handful of top skaters do the double and triple axels this way.  This method also suffers from the issue of slower turn-over making the skater late getting into rotation for the double or triple axel.  Unfortunately, this method is more commonly taught by coaches that understand the needed take-off edge.

The more common method used by top skaters (but taught by fewer coaches) is to allow both hips to turn sideways as the skating foot deepens the edge (and a few coaches teach it as the hips creating the deeper edge) but the free foot continues straight, although it is going “straight” sideways.  Audrey gives a nice demonstration of this in this video.  Relating this back to Nick’s car analogy, this implies that both cars turn to the left, but the outside car continues in the straight line by sliding sideways.

This is a great video.  It may be the most important video ever published on axel.  The concepts in this video are incredibly important to mastering double and triple axels.  Teaching single axels correctly allows skaters to easily proceed with the double and triple when they are physically strong and quick enough.


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