Apr 12, 2012
Look and Leap
When asked about my favorite element to watch in figure skating, my answer is always 'triple axel out of a spread eagle.' No hops, turns or pauses between the spread eagle and the axel, but a triple axel directly out of an outside spread eagle, preferably with the spread eagle held out with good speed, deep edges and for a decent length of time (i.e. more than the 2-millisecond CoP-style MITF we often see prior to a jump) with no unsightly bottoms sticking out for balance. It's a difficult enough entry to sufficiently impress judges and spectators alike, and when done well, there's something ineffably majestic about the power and precision necessary to complete said element. What's not to like?
Though the focus here will be on triple axels, no post about the marriage of axels and spread eagles is complete without a mention of Peggy Fleming and her trademark spread eagle-double axel-spread eagle (2:41):
Beautiful, just beautiful. Note the poise, how finished everything is. Also, has anyone else besides Ms. Fleming actually done a double axel sandwiched between a spread eagle sequence like that?
Unless I am very much mistaken, Ilia Kulik was the first skater to do the triple axel directly out of a spread eagle. Mr. Kulik's triple axel alone was already exemplary, but the jump became truly sublime when paired with a spread eagle (0:22):
It is a moment almost obscene in its beauty: the spread eagle long and held-out with no break into the jump, the speed and flow into and out of the axel, the superlative height and air position of the jump, with the whole thing impeccably placed within the phrasing of the music.
Mr. Kulik even included a spread eagle into a triple axel in the second half of his program in competition during the season in which he was skating to his complex Romeo and Juliet long program (3:26):
And here's another one (0:39), "an explosion off the ice":
It looks so impossibly effortless, as if Mr. Kulik were merely doing a double. Phenomenal, and if CoP were in effect at the time, +3 GOE for sure.
Other men after Mr. Kulik who combined the spread eagle and triple axel (though not quite as prettily) include Takeshi Honda (1:15) and Stefan Lindemann (3:33):
More recently, quite a few other skaters have also been using the spread eagle entrance into their triple axels, no doubt angling after the "unexpected/creative/difficult entry" GOE bulletpoint. Even juniors such as Andrei Rogozine have included the element into their repertoire (0:47):
However, Mr. Rogozine's spread eagle-triple axel would definitely benefit from much more speed, and by being less tilted in the air as well.
This season, Artur Gachinski had a decent triple axel out of a spread eagle in his short program, but the difficult transition suddenly disappeared during his most successful outing of the season, the European Figure Skating Championships. A most unfortunate decision, because that was probably the most memorable moment in the entire program (1:05):
Yuzuru Hanyu also included a triple axel out of a spread eagle as his second jumping pass in his Romeo + Juliet long program (1:10):
I wish Mr. Hanyu would hold his body in the spread eagle position straighter for a bit longer, but on the whole the element is well done: very excellent speed and flow throughout and absolutely no break between the spread eagle and the axel. The counter turn Mr. Hanyu does before the triple axel in his short program may be the rarer entry, but the spread eagle entry is quite spectacular indeed.