Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Triple Axel in Slow Motion

Performing a spinning jump in figure skating is all about proper mechanics. As we look forward to the Winter Olympics 2010 in Vancouver, we found some video of Stephen Carriere performing a Triple Axel on the Discovery Channel's Time Warp program.

A triple axel is a figure skating jump that takes off facing forward and jumping forward, the skater then rotates 3.5 times and lands on the opposite foot skating backward.

As this video is from Discovery Channel it cannot be embedded, but please watch it here .

Time Warp explains that Stephen skates at a speed approaching 20 miles per hour and takes off at an angle of 45 degrees. Unfortunately the camera view used in the video makes it difficult for us to measure these values. However there are many other mechanical aspects of the jump that we can analyze with this video.

The first part is the take off. From this high speed video we can see how Stephen Carriere creates the rotational speed necessary to complete the three and a half twists.

Stephen is jumping off his left leg and as he prepares for the jump he bends his left knee and allows his right leg to drag behind him. From this position he swings his right leg in a small arc around his body. At the end of the spin he drives the right leg up and simultaneously jumps off his left leg. The combination of spinning and jumping at take off gives him the height and rotation necessary to complete the quad axel.

Once he is in the air Stephen keeps in a tight twisting position. Notice how his chin is tucked down toward his left shoulder (in the direction of his spin), his arms are pulled into his chest and his legs are crossed making sure they stay tightly together.

Athletes who get less height than Stephen often have to spin faster and do this by turning their heads and arms further in the direction of the spin. We can see that as Stephen enters his third rotation he does turn his head further in the direction of his spin.

The video also gives us some insight into the landing. To land, Stephen needs to slow down his spin and stop his head from rotating so that he does not fall. He opens his arms out to slow the spin and stops his head. This allows him to "spot" the position for the landing. "Spotting the position" does not mean he looks at his feet to see where he is going to land, but rather that he has chosen an object at eye level that will inform him of his position prior to landing. "Spotting" is an important aspect for all spinning moves.

In the video we can also see that Stephen starts moving his left leg away from his right landing leg just before touch down. Landing with his legs crossed would not allow him to absorb the impact of landing and skate out of the jump. On landing he bends his right knee to absorb the impact and swings his left leg in a wide arc, opening up his body and slowing his rotation.

Unfortunately we won't be seeing Stephen Carriere at the 2010 Olympics as he recovers from an injury, but we will see others performing this trick and hopefully can get more slow motion video.

Using high speed video can definitely assist in analyzing your performance. If you are looking for assistance with using video to analyze your sport, please contact us. We look forward to your comments.

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