Winter Olympics 2018: figure skating jumps, explained

Vox | 2/10/2018 | Alex Abad-Santos
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Every four years, a giant swath of the American population fixates on a worldwide competition that fuses turgid nationalism with the hypnotic chaos of humans flinging themselves into the air and landing on tiny metal slivers atop a slick, glassy surface.

The air is cold, the ice is crisp, and it’s once again time for Olympic figure skating.

Olympic - Swimming - Gymnastics - Track - Field

Like Olympic swimming, gymnastics, and track and field, figure skating is a sport that captures Americans’ attention at every Winter Games in a way that doesn’t happen with sports we can more easily follow year-round: basketball, football, baseball, soccer, and, to a lesser extent, tennis.

But even with so many people enthusiastically tuning in, the sport can still seem a bit impenetrable. With few exceptions, skaters tend to have shorter careers than other athletes — the best-case scenario is to win an Olympic gold medal and then retire — and that can make it feel like there’s a new crop of contenders competing at every games. What’s more, the scoring system can be really hard to follow; just try asking someone on the street to explain GOEs.

Jumps

And then there are the jumps.

They all look sort of similar. Names like axel and salchow sounds like nods to German efficiency or species of bovine rather than feats of power and grace. Only a few subtle changes separate a triple loop from a triple toe loop. A tiny shift in direction dramatically changes the triple lutz into a triple flip.

Track - Details - Jump - Thing - Sport

Keeping track of all these details can make identifying which jump is which the single most confusing thing about an otherwise simple and exhilarating sport. Here’s a brief guide to everything you need to know about figure skating jumps.

To really understand how jumps work is to understand how an ice skate works. While it can look like figure skaters...
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