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Jump Recognition Guide
for the Skating Challenged

Have you given up hope of ever being able to recognize jumps because every description you have ever seen describes the jumps in terms of inside edges, outside edges, free legs, etc.? (e.g salchow - " A jump taking off backward from an inside edge and landing in a backward outside edge of the opposite skate.") When you read a definition like that do you say to yourself, "Geez, I can barely tell an inside edge from an outside edge when the skater is in a stationary position. Never mind when they are cruising across the ice at 20 miles per hour while constantly changing directions and edges and feet!"

Well, I felt the same way a few years ago but I set out bound and determined to be able to recognize all the jumps by all the elite skaters. Armed with several books filled with those vaguely helpful technical descriptions, my VCR with a slow-motion feature, and lots of patience, I was able to achieve my goal. The first thing I did was to throw out all of those definitions based on take-off edges. I cut it down to basics - terms that any layperson can understand. Terms like swinging legs and picking legs - descriptions based on things an untrained eye can actually see while the skater is jumping in real-time.

Here is the result. What follows is my "Guide to Jump Recognition" It includes:

  1. A description of each of the six jumps used in competition at the elite level. Each description is based on the characteristics of a given jump that are easily seen.

  2. A list of things to look for as you watch a jump

  3. A methodology for teaching yourself how to recognize jumps.

  4. Two cheat sheets - one for the majority of skaters who rotate counter clockwise (CCW) (i.e. Elvis Stojko) and one for the skaters who rotate clockwise(CW) (i.e. Todd Eldredge)


This is how I learned. I have been in ice skates a total of maybe five hours in my entire life. I never had a lesson. So if I can learn to recognize jumps then you can too! In fact, after becoming 100% comfortable with recognizing jumps using this method, I found myself able to actually notice inside edges and outside edges and appreciating all of the in-between steps, etc. as well.



Part 1: Jump Descriptions

These descriptions are all based on a skater who rotates counter clockwise (i.e. the majority of skaters). For clockwise jumpers, replace "left" with "right" and "right" with "left" Note that all jumps are landed on the right leg (left leg for clockwise jumpers). (Be sure to see the Cheat Sheets below in Part 4)

TOE LOOP - Skater skates backwards. Keeps his right leg on the ice. Puts his left leg behind him and picks the ice with his left toe.

FLIP - Skater skates backwards. Keeps his left leg on the ice. Puts his right leg behind him and picks the ice with his right toe.

LUTZ -. Skater skates backwards. Keeps his left leg on the ice. Puts his right leg behind him and picks the ice with his right toe.
OK, don't panic. I know what you are thinking - I described the flip the SAME way. (Technically, the takeoff for a flip is on the left inside edge and for the lutz it is on the left outside edge but I promised you - no edge talků) However, almost every skater needs that VERY LONG backwards glide on the left leg usually into a corner of the rink for the lutz jump. You won't see that VERY LONG backward glide for the flip. (WARNING: Some skaters don't need that VERY LONG takeoff glide. That's OK. Ignore them for now. Wait until you get very comfortable recognizing jumps before you tackle those skaters. But believe me, in time you will be able to differentiate a flip from a lutz even without the telltale long setup.)

AXEL - Skater skates forwards. Keeps his left leg on the ice and swings his right from back to front while jumping up. There are no toes picked into the ice for this jump. It is the easiest jump to recognize because it is the only jump that takes off from a forward position.

SALCHOW - Skater skates backwards. Keeps his left leg on the ice and swings his right leg from back to front while jumping up. There are no toes picked into the ice for this jump. (Note: Some skaters keep their swinging leg on the ice rather than lifting it up and swinging it over the ice surface.)

LOOP - Skater skates backwards. Keeps both feet on the ice (right foot crossed behind the left foot) while gliding backward. Then the skater seems to just jump into the air from both feet. (Actually the skater is getting the power only from his right leg but it looks like he jumps from both feet.)

Part 2:
What to Look for When You Watch a Jump

  1. Did the skater quickly turn forward right before taking off? If yes then it was an axel

  2. Did the skater pick his toe into the ice when his leg was extended behind him? If so which toe did he pick the ice with; the right (flip) or the left(toe loop)? Was there a REALLY LONG glide before he picked the ice with his toe? (lutz jump)

  3. If he didn't pick the ice with his toe then did he swing one leg from back to front (salchow) or did he glide backward with his right leg slightly crossed behind his left (loop)?

Part 3:
Self-teaching Methodology for Jump Recognition

You need a VCR with a slow-motion feature. Familiarize yourself with the pause, play, rewind, and slo-mo buttons

Step 1: Get out a tape of your favorite skater's long program.

Step 2: Determine if your skater is a counter clockwise rotator or a clockwise rotator. Get out the corresponding cheat sheet from the section below.

Step 3: Turn off the sound on your TV so you can't hear the commentator identifying the jumps.

Step4: Play the tape at the normal speed until you get to the first jump. Watch the jump looking for the telltale signs enumerated in the previous section. Pause the tape right after the skater lands. Did you catch any of the telltale signs? Were you able to narrow it down at all? If not, rewind the tape to the start of the jump and watch it again in slow motion. Were you able to notice any of the discerning characteristics this time narrowing it down to at least 1-2 jumps? Keep pausing and rewinding and watching in slow motion until you think you know what jump it is. Then turn up the sound and let the commentator tell you what jump it is. Were you right? If not, review my layperson's description for the given jump and look at the cheat sheet. Now watch the jump again looking for the discerning characteristics of that jump.

Step 5: Repeat step four for every jump in the skater's long program.

Step 6: Now do the same for different skaters including at least one skater who rotates clockwise.



Part 4: Cheat Sheets

CHEAT SHEET FOR COUNTER CLOCKWISE SKATERS
JUMP LEG ON THE ICE "PICKING/SWINGING" LEG NOTES
TOE LOOP Right Left kicking leg/picking toe  
FLIP Left Right kicking leg/picking toe  
LUTZ Left Right kicking leg/picking toe Almost always preceded by a LONG backward diagonal glide on left leg from center of the ice into a corner of the rink
AXEL Left Right leg swings back to front Only jump where skater is skating forward prior to takeoff
LOOP Both (but technically right leg is takeoff leg) No swinging leg
No kicking leg/picking toe
Right leg is crossed behind left leg prior to takeoff
SALCHOW Left Right leg swings back to front Skater appears to turn in a circle before jumping.


CHEAT SHEET FOR CLOCKWISE SKATERS
JUMP LEG ON THE ICE "PICKING/SWINGING" LEG NOTES
TOE LOOP Left Right kicking leg/picking toe  
FLIP Right Left kicking leg/picking toe  
LUTZ Right Left kicking leg/picking toe Almost always preceded by a LONG backward diagonal glide on right leg from center of the ice into a corner of the rink
AXEL Right Left leg swings back to front Only jump where skater is skating forward prior to takeoff
LOOP Both (but technically left leg is takeoff leg) No swinging leg
No kicking leg/picking toe
Left leg is crossed behind right leg prior to takeoff
SALCHOW Right Left leg swings back to front Skater appears to turn in a circle before jumping.

Conclusion

I hope this helps you. It worked for me and now I can discern inside edges from outside edges and I even have an intuitive understanding of the technical definitions for jumps given in most figure skating books. Enjoy.

 

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