Figure Skating 101 - Jan. 11

Let's talk about Axels

Take a step-by-step look at the single Axel being performed.
Take a step-by-step look at the single Axel being performed. (Jo Ann Schneider Farris)


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By Jo Ann Schneider Farris, special to
(01/11/2008) - Axels (and double Axels and triple Axels) and waltz jumps are the only figure skating jumps where the take-off is from a forward outside edge. After jumping forward from a forward edge, skaters make one and a half revolutions in the air and land on the other foot on a back outside edge. The extra half revolution is what makes the Axel jump so difficult.

History of the Axel Jump

The Axel jump is also known as the Axel Paulsen jump, since the jump was invented by a figure skater named Axel Paulsen. He first did the jump on speed skates in 1882. That's why the jump is spelled A-x-e-l, with the capital "A."

"Getting an Axel"

It takes time to master an Axel jump. Sometimes it takes years for skaters to master it. Once a skater "gets an Axel," double jumps can come quite easily.

Doing Axels

Many figure skaters do Axels by entering the jump from back crossovers. Others do a forward inside mohawk and then glide backward on an extended back outside edge.

They then step forward and bend the skating knee as if they are about to do a waltz jump, and they bend the arms and elbows back. Then, with a swinging motion, the skaters bring the free leg in front and bend the free leg's knee while bringing the leg forward. Next, the skaters bring the arms forward and jump off the ice at the same time that they swing the free leg forward.

The arms pull in tightly to the chest, and the skater begins to rotate in the air. The original free leg crosses the original skating leg during the first half-turn of rotation. Then, the jump is completed with a total of one and one-half revolutions in the air. The landing is the same as that of other jumps -- that is, first to the toe pick, quickly moving to a smooth glide onto a back outside edge. The rotation is checked by bringing the arms out and extending the free leg back. The checked position should be held for a distance equal to the skater's height.

Good Backspins and Single Jumps Make Good Axels

Skaters should try several backspins before attempting Axel jumps. In fact, an excellent backspin is necessary to master Axels and double jumps. Skaters should also practice waltz-loop jump combinations and practice Axels off the ice. All single jumps should be mastered before trying to master Axels. If you are a figure skater struggling with landing Axels, don't be discouraged. "Getting an Axel" does take time.

Happy Skating!

For more information on the fundamentals of figure skating, visit the U.S. Figure Skating's Basic Skills Program.