School figures were once the dominant portion of the figure skating competition score, but were finally eliminated in 1989. Today they’ve been replaced by Moves in the Field, but ironically, beginning in September (2010), figure eights and loops will be reintroduced to skaters as part of the Moves in the Field tests.
Perhaps the best known figure skater is Gillis Grafstrom. Three-time Olympic and World Champion, the Swedish skater was a master at tracing patterns on the ice. Grafstrom later developed a spiral and spin which evolved into the modern day camel spin. After he stopped competing, Grafstrom went on to coach Sonja Henie.
Karl Schafer is another important skater in the history of the sport. He was seven-time World champion in the 1930s and two-time Olympic champion (1932 & 1936). One of his most famous legacies is the Schafer push. Originally used in figures, the Schafer push uses a backward outside push to start loops–although it’s now used in free skating, Moves in the Field, and ice dancing. Schafer is credited with performaing one of the first double jumps, and he was known for his choreography in the early 1900s.
Perhaps the most famous of skating terms is the “axel.” It’s named after its creator, Norwegian speed and stunt skater Alex Paulsen. Nicknamed “The Fastest Human on Skates,” Paulsen’s era began in the 1870s; he created the axel jump about ten years later. The axel is the bane of many skaters as it’s not only difficult, but scary! It’s the only jump that takes off from a forward edge. Imagine traveling fifteen miles an hour and hurtling yourself into the air to rotate one and a half times and then land upright on a blade that is only four millimeters wide!
Men began adding axels to their programs at the turn of the century and the women followed about twenty years later. The double axel (two and half rotations) was first executed by two-time Olympic champion Dick Button. Dick Button’s coach Gustave Lussi was the first to suggest crossing the feet in the air–which made the rotation faster and more controlled.
In 1978, CanadianVern Taylor was the first man to land a triple axel (three and half times in the air) at the World Championships, although American Olympian David Jenkins was landing triple axels in the late fifties. No skater has successfully landed a quadruple axel yet.
Another Swedish skater who left his mark on the sport is Ulrich Salchow. Born in 1877, he won ten World Championships and Olympic gold in 1908. One year later, he invented the jump that bears his name. The salchow begins with a left forward outside 3-turn to a left back inside edge. The skater uses the right free leg to turn around one full rotation before landing on the right back outside edge.
This is actual footage of Ulrich Salchow performing his jump two years after its invention:
Three decades later American Skippy Baxter landed the first triple salchow. Unfortunately, since his 1939 feat didn’t happen at a qualifying competition, Baxter didn’t get credit for it. (Don’t feel sorry for him; he did get credit for creating the backflip. Too bad it’s banned from amateur competitions!)
German skater Werner Rittberger invented the loop jump in 1910. The loop jump–also known as the “Rittberger”–is one of the most important jumps in skating because its “air position” simulates all jumps within their rotation. Male skaters have been doing double loops since the early 20th Century, but Dick Button was the first to land a triple loop in 1952.
Austrian skater Alois Lutz invented the Lutz first performed at a competition in 1913. After this axel, the Lutz is considered the most difficult jump because skaters must rotate counter to the skating edge. For a counter-clockwise jumper, the skater skates glides backward on a left outside edge. The skater uses the right toe pick to help vault into the air, and then turns counter-clockwise before landing on a back outside edge. Canadian Olympic champion Barbara Ann Scott was the first lady to perform a double lutz in 1942; 20 years later another Canadian–Donald Jackson–landed the first triple Lutz. The first lady to land a triple Lutz was Swiss skater Denise Biellman in 1978.
American show skater Bruce Mapes invented the toe loop in the 1920s. The toe loop is one of the easier jumps for skaters. The first triple toe performed in competition was by American Tommy Litz at Worlds in 1964. Canada’s Kurt Browning performed the first quadruple toe loop at Worlds 24 years later.
“It is impossible to state accurately that anyone invented a certain jump or turn with so many skaters experimenting all over the world. But it is fairly definite that Montgomery “Bud” Wilson who was the outstanding Canadian skater and champion of North America, was the first to do the Flip Jump in the East. He now has worked out the Double Flip Jump.”
~Skating Magazine, April 1937
The Walley jump is one you don’t see often in skating anymore; it’s a full rotation jump that takes off from a back inside edge and lands on a back outside edge of the same foot. Today’s skaters are familiar with this technique becuase it’s related to the power (edge) pulls from the Moves in the Field tests. This jump–also known as the Pat Low jump–may have been first invented by American Nate Walley or Scottish skater Pat Low. However, when the jump is performed with a toe assist, that’s known as a toe Walley. Depending on the number of rotations they perform, skaters can do double, triple, or quadruple toe Walleys.
One of the most beautiful elements in figure skating isn’t a jump or a spin; it’s an Ina Bauer. Named after its creator, German skater Ina Bauer, the move is a variation of an inside spread eagle, except the forward skating knee is bent and the back leg is straight. Skaters can perform Ina Bauers on edges or in a straight line.
THE SIT SPIN
“The Father of Modern Figure Skating,” American skater Jackson Haines, spent nine years perfecting the sit spin. Borin in New York in 1840, he was an accomplished ballet dancer who combined his dance skills wiht figure skating. He’s also the one who introduced the concept of skating to music. Although American audiences didn’t appreciate his progressive style, Europeans embraced what became known as the “International Style” of figure skating. haines was also the first person to screw blades directly to his boots rather than strapping them on the boots. This gave him more flexibility and stability on the ice.
THE CAMEL SPIN
THE LAYBACK SPIN