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Learning the Moves of Figure Skating

I always loved watching figure skating when I was younger. I even used to take lessons! The skaters always looked so elegant, graceful, and happy as they skated around the ice rink. I still love skating and watching figure skating to this day. Considering we just finished up the Olympics, I figured I’d share some of the common moves seen and judged on during the event of figure skating. 


Toe Loop

This is the easiest of the jumps done by figure skaters, and usually one of the first learned. This jump is typically performed while skating backwards. You will see the skater pick one of their toes into the ice and jump into a half revolution, landing on the toe that did not pick. Once they land they will glide backwards on an outside edge. This jump is one of the most commonly seen moves on the ice rink. The move was invented in the 1920’s by an American professional skater, Bruce Mapes, and is even sometimes called the Mapes Jump.


This jump is a little more difficult than the toe loop. Ulrich Salchow invented this jump before the toe loop in 1909. This move is completed from the back inside edge of one foot and the outside edge of the other with a half revolution done in mid-air. You will most commonly see it done after three turns. After the third turn, the skater will stop and leave one foot extended behind them and then they will swing the free leg forward in a scoop-like motion. The skater leaps into the air and lands backwards on the leg that had previously done the scooping motion. Here’s an image to help you picture it better!


One of the easiest to identify for non-skaters since it involves no toe-picking assistance. For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as an “edge jump” since there is no toe assist on the jump take-off. A loop is carried out by the ice skater taking off from a back outside edge, jumping into a full revolution, and landing backward on the same edge they had leaped from. These moves tend to be seen more often combined into a sequence of moves because of their easy execution and application.    



This jump, along with others, can start to get a little confusing in terms of what move is what when describing them. The flip jump involves a toe assist as well, similar to a toe loop. However, there is a full revolution rather than a half. The skater glides backwards on the back inside edge, picks with the opposite skate, jumps in a full revolution, and lands on the back outside foot that was previously picked. 


The takeoff of this jump occurs from the back outside edge instead of the inside, as it does in a flip. An Austrian man who performed the jump in 1913 named Alois Lutz invented this jump. This type of jump is considered to be a counter-rotated jump versus the normal rotation jumps. It’s very difficult for a skater to remain on the back outside edge for the takeoff of the move. If the skater doesn’t keep it steady and accidently rolls to the inside edge, the jump doesn’t receive full credit and is considered a flip jump instead. This has happened enough times that the mistake has been given the nickname a “flutz.”


Lastly, we have the axel jump which was invented in 1882 by a skater named Axel Paulsen. What makes this jump unique is the takeoff for this jump is achieved on a forward outside edge. Following that jump forward from the forward edge, the skater makes one and one-half revolutions and finally lands on the opposite foot on the back outside edge. This move is one of the most time consuming and difficult to learn and master. For some skaters it could take years to master such a complicated jump. However, once they do master this jump, it is much easier to achieve double jumps as a result. 


Ice skating is a special kind of sport that involves a lot of hard work, training, and poise. There are countless combinations of jumps and spins that an ice skater can do that create the amazing visual which we see on the rink. Hopefully now you’re ready to contribute some expert commentary on the performances in 2022!


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