What is a Triple Toe Loop

Let’s be clear: figure skating is the most watched event in the Winter Olympics. There is no other sport that comes close to figure skating when it comes to drama, athletes, subplots, and politics. Skaters spend hours on end training for jumps and routines that only last a few minutes.

What is a Triple Toe Loop:

Athletes don’t have to be the greatest all the time; they simply have to be the best for seven minutes, which is what makes the Olympic skating competition both beautiful and devastating (see: Lipinski, Tara).

What is a Triple Toe Loop

It’s for this reason that we tune in. Most of us, however, judge a skater’s performance based on whether or not they fall (which is why many were surprised when Mirai Nagasu wasn’t selected for the Olympic team despite delivering a fall-free routine). While we collectively hold our breath, a skater appears to the untrained eye to only morph into a spinning blur for a few nanoseconds before landing (or not).

The Toe Loop

This type of leap uses a toe-pick to help you launch off the outside of your foot and land on the outside of the same foot (so if you’re right-handed, you’ll be launching off your right foot and landing on your right foot). Above is Russian figure skater Maxim Kovtun’s signature toe loop.

The Lutz

There is no real distinction between a Lutz and a flip other than the angle at which the skater launches himself. Even though the proper technique for a Lutz involves launching yourself off the back outside edge and landing on the opposite foot, some skaters “cheat” by launching yourself off the front inside edge.

Another challenging aspect of the Lutz is that it is counter-rotated, meaning that the jump’s rotation is the inverse of its entry. Kim Yu-Na, who won gold at the 2010 Olympics, is pictured above performing a triple Lutz, her signature jump.

The Axel

The Axel is easily distinguished from the other jumps because to its entry, which is particularly impressive because the skater is approaching the leap from a new direction. In terms of difficulty, the Axel is tops. One of very few women in history to land the triple Axel, and one of very few women to regularly attempt it, Mao Asada is featured here in slow motion.

You will see that the jump is actually three and a half revolutions. Hacker remarked, “The axel is the most perilous of the jumps since it is the only one with a forward takeoff, adding an extra half turn to the jump.” The difficulty level just went up, and so did the reward. Watching the clip, you can clearly observe Asada’s feet; she leaps onto the outside of the forward foot and lands on the back foot.

The Points

If the only difference between two jumps is the edge, and if switching edges is as easy as applying pressure, then “flutting” (taking off on the wrong edge) a Lutz becomes a straightforward matter. Judging is difficult because of the complexity introduced by the many edges, legs, landings, rotations, etc.

As a result, the International Skating Union has instituted a technical panel that monitors video replay to ensure skaters are using proper foot placement and edge technique. Though not settling for merely adequate performance is not the objective here.

Getting a lot of height, covering a lot of ice, launching into jumps like a freight train, and landing with technique and form (like Kim’s triple lutz) all earn additional points in figure skating. To reflect this, we introduce the Grade of Execution score, where you either lose or earn points based on how well you do a given leap.

The Ultimate Goal

It’s been established that the best possible score can only be achieved by exemplary skating technique. However, simply doing a series of difficult tricks like a quadruple or triple corkscrew is not sufficient. A gorgeous landing is only topped by a second wonderful landing, and a difficult landing is only topped by a third lovely landing.

To perform a leap immediately after finishing another is called a combo. In addition, complex combinations are awarded a high point value. There is a lot of planning that goes into a single jump, and adding another in quick succession introduces even more variables and potential problems.

This is why you’ll often see a more manageable jump after a difficult one, like as a triple Lutz or triple Axel. Some male skaters can combine a quadruple leap with a triple.

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