When Mirai Nagasu made figure skating history by landing a triple Axel in the Olympics this past week, many non-skating Americans may not have realized the true weight of her accomplishment.
I mean, like, the triple Axel is just a spinny, spirally jump you make while wearing sharp blades attached to your feet, all while you’re gliding on the most slippery surface known to man. No biggie, right?
But here are some quick facts:
The Axel jump is already the most technically difficult jump in figure skating (there are six kinds of jumps: Axel, Lutz, flip, loop, Salchow, toe loop). Simply add two more rotations to make it a triple Axel.
Yes, Axel is a capitalized word. It’s named after the Norwegian skater who invented the jump in the 1880s.
In competition, the triple Axel has a potential of 8.5 points, more than twice the value of a double Axel, which is worth about 3.3.
American skater Mirai Negasu was the first female woman from the U.S. to land a triple Axel jump at the Olympics (in Feb. 2018 at PyeongChang!), as well as the third woman overall (the other two were skaters from Japan, in 1992 and 2010).
The only other American woman to land the triple Axel in international competition was Tonya Harding (1991).
While a quadruple Axel is possible and has been attempted among male figure skaters especially, it has never been successfully pulled off in competition.
So for now, we have to be content with the measly triple version.
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) February 12, 2018
For the actual mechanics of the jump itself, we’re going to refer you to someone who can explain it much better than we can — Phil Edwards at Vox. You’re sure to find this video super helpful. Phil even uses a Barbie doll to explain the positioning of the skater, pre-Axel.
Mirai Nagasu (who trains in Colorado Springs) isn’t done! To take a look at the upcoming TV listings for the Olympics figure skating competition, click here! And Mirai, we congratulate you on your incredible performance! How awesome it is to see all your hard work pay off!
So, what do you think? Do you think you could pull off a triple Axel jump? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! Go Team USA!