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Evaluation of Jumps

by Claude Sweet
USFS Gold Free Skating and MITF, International Dance Test Judge

    In the world of IJS competitive judging a technical panel determines the jumps and of they are fully rotated with the correct take-off and landing edges.  Judges make their own calls if the jumps take off from the correct edges and are fully rotated.

   The purpose of this article is to clarify the technical considerations judges use to evaluate single, double, and triple revolution jumps. The written rules come from the ISU and adherence to the interpretations of these rules is essential to avoid having our skaters penalized in international competitions.

   Judges frequently complain about toe waltz jumps, toe axels, and Flutzes. We will be discussing these and other jump related rotation deficiencies in this article.

   A web article recently written by a coach suggested that “Very few female skaters, if any, have ever rotated 3 or more full rotations in the air to perform a clean triple Lutz as suggested by the rules.” The coach claims to have video evidence that supports this claim.

   There is a great risk for any competitive coach who attempts to "game" the system and encourage their students to not perform jumps as defined by the ISU. Is it worth the risk for their skater(s) to be penalized when compared to other skaters whose coaches attempt to teach their skaters techniques which will be positively rewarded.

   Unfortunately it sometimes seems as if specific technical errors are being ignored and even being rewarded by judges in the 6.0 judging system. In many lower level events the majority of skaters in an event may display the same errors with some skaters falling and others exhibit under rotated two footed landings, put a hand down, or by pure luck avoid falling.

The ISU - the official governing body of International figure skating
    The ISU establishes the rules and national bodies (USFS) change their rules to conform and thus strengthen the judging and coaching system that ultimately selects skaters to represent the USA in international, world, and Olympic competitions.

   The ISU’s definition of a fully rotated jump landing requires the arc of the landing edge to be continuous with the take-off edge, except for the Lutz jump which requires the trajectory of a skaters body to complete a serpentine. The flight path is a curved line from the jump entry until the jump is landed, thus completing the originating arc. The only jumps performed in a straight line are the bunny hop and a back split (which is rarely performed). All other jumps require the skate blade to be on an arc of varying degree prior to the actual thrust into the air.

   A common error of skaters is the pre-rotation of the takeoff and the under rotation of the jump landing edge. Jumps that are under rotated by a total of more than 1/4 rotation are downgraded in competitions and do not meet test requirements of a fully rotated jump.

   A skidded forward outside edge is a common error on axel jumps. Some skaters almost come to a stop as their blade approaches a 90-degree angle to the trajectory edge (curve) on the ice preceding the skid.

Diagram of the correct entry, rotation, and landing arc – sometimes referred to
flight path of a  jump. The Waltz jump is the quintessential basic figure skating
jump that illustrates the discussion of what constitutes a fully rotated jump.

Waltz Jump Rotation

   When stepping forward from a back outside edge, some skaters do so in a continuous arc. Their actual jump is outside the curve for their axel jump. Judges evaluate the back to forward Mohawk as a transition. The forward outside edge becomes a new arc that should be smoothly continued in a fully rotated back landing for the axel.

   A cheated jump occurs when the skater lands and rotates on the toe pick or lands sideways and uses the free leg to pull the landing foot blade’s edge to remain upright. In both cases the rotation is short because the skating blade exceeds the 1/4 rotation allowed under the ISU rules.

   It's important that skaters stop expecting full credit for jumps just because they land on one foot and do not fall. A jump landing that has the minimum allowed “quarter turn rotation” is not technically cheated under the rules”; however, judges may reflect this with a negative GOE score. The GOE will reflect the qualities of the entry, the air position, and landing of the jump. Extra credit may be given for a difficult series of turns or an element like an outside spread eagle or bauer. After considering any positive qualities, the judges may determine they mitigate a negative landing.

   Sometimes a TV commentator will refer to the skater tilting in the air. This usually begins at the takeoff when the skater leans to the inside of the takeoff arc and thus when they rotate in the air their body’s axis is not erect and balanced to transfer their body weight to the landing foot without being unbalanced to the side and sometimes combined with leaning very forward causing the skater to fall awkwardly.

Rotation Jumping Concepts
   There are three basic rotational concepts:

1. Rotating around the takeoff foot and transferring weight to the landing foot at the last minute
2. Rotating evenly around the body’s central axis i.e. an Open Axel
3. Transferring weight to landing foot after attaining the apex (full height) and completing the jump
    rotation around the landing foot (a back outside spin position).
   A jump that approaches the ideal technical position in all four phases of the jump recieves the highest marks from judges.

1. Entry
2. Take-off
3. Air position
4. Landing or exit

NOTE: A superior landing is clean, fully rotated, and has a smooth, controlled flowing exit edge. Because the exit is the last phase, difficulties at this stage can drastically influence the GOE marks judges will award.

   There is a “natural jumping direction” (clockwise and counter clockwise skaters) as people have a genetic preference to be right or left handed. The majority of skaters rotate in the counter clockwise direction. We will use this direction to describe all of the jumps discussed in this article. The vast majority of skaters jump and spin in the same direction. This facilitates a skater acquiring multiple rotations in jumps.

   It is natural for skaters to rotate in the same direction as the entry edge. The Lutz and Walley jumps rotate in the opposite direction as the entry edge.

How is the lift, thrust, or spring created?
   There is misconception is that these jumps lift off only the edge. In reality the skater is actually pushing off from the ball of their foot. This is NOT considered a toe assisted jump! When performed correctly the arc of the entry edge does not skid and the skater does not pivot (pre-rotate) off the toe pick.

   To get maximum height, a skater achieves maximum lift through the release of the quick twitch muscles, at takeoff by pressing against the ice from the ball (toe pick) of the skating foot.  According to Gus Lussi’s theory of  'scientific' jumping technique Systematic Figure Skating: The Spin & Jump Techniques, the precise timing required to press off a clean, flowing edge should be the same for single and multi- revolution jumps.

   The force at take-off must be applied exactly perpendicular to the edge, or the skate will move (skid) during the powerful thrusting motion.  If the skating foot skids sideways or hooks prior to and/or during the thrust, the forward momentum of jump is reduced because of friction and pre-thrust torque in an effort to achieve maximum elevation.

Jump Descriptions 
Jumps are classified as either edge or toe assisted. The edge jumps consist of salchow, loop, axel, and walley. The takeoff edge defines the mandatory edge (inside or outside) and direction (forward or backward).
    Jumps are defined by their take-off edge. While this seems clear to most judges, many coaches have taken liberties over the years. For example:
  • Two foot Loop takeoff (Lazy or trailing free leg)
  • Change of edge on Lutz jumps (the dreaded "Edge Alert")
  • Toe Waltz jumps (1T<) and toe Axels (2T<)
  • Flips from a flat or outside edge takeoff (the dreaded "Edge Alert")
   A brief history of each jump and definition are provided for the salchow (back inside edge) and loop (back outside edge) entries and the axel (forward outside edge) entry.

   Salchow and loop jumps must takeoff backward to receive full credit under ISU rules that are now being enforced by technical panels. Some coaches teach their skaters to pivot on the toe pick until they are totally forward just before they lift off the ice. These jumps are downgraded.

The Salchow was invented by Ulrich Salchow of Sweden in 1909. The originator of the jump performed it from a deep back inside edge. Today the jump is performed from a shallow inside with a sudden pull (hook) to deepen edge and faciliate the thrust into the air.

     Salchow Rotation

Loop jump was invented by German Werner Rittberger in 1910. The name “loop” is based on the compulsory loop figure.

Loop Rotation

Axel was invented by Norwegian skater Axel Paulsen in 1882.
   The axel is a major milestone for aspiring free skaters. And well it should be. It is the most difficult of single jumps. A double axel is a mandatory jump for top novice and above competitive skaters.

   It’s very important to understand how most skaters perform double and triple axels. Many coaches consider an axel to be just a waltz jump takeoff with an extra rotation. A waltz jump usually takes off a shallow clean edge with a firm toe pick impression at lift off. The skater’s flight path follows in the same direction as the direction of the take-off edge.

   For too many skaters the axel's takeoff edge gets deeper (hooks) so that the angle between the final take-off edge direction and the flight path is more pronounced risking their ability to hold forward edge and retain upright causing the skater skid and fall as they attempt to spring into the air. The result is usually a very nasty fall.

Axel Rotation

   If the angle between the final blade position at takeoff and the flight path is approximately 90 degrees, the jump must be downgraded as it is under rotated by a half revolution.

   The Axel jump is entered on a forward outside edge, turning at least 1 & 1/4 full revolution in the air in the and landing on a back outside edge on the other foot. The jump take-off may lift off the toe pick. The desired blade angle just before lift-off should not exceed 22.5 degrees to the flight path.

   The minimum rotation for a single axel is 1&1/4 rotation in the air. The minimum rotation for a double axel is 2&1/4 rotations in the air. The minimum rotation for a triple axel is 3&1/4 rotations in the air.

   It is “poor” technique, when a skater spins through the take-off so that when their blade actually leaves the ice, it’s facing directly away from the flight path. This technique is always penalized by the judges with a low GOE using IJS or a low score in 6.0.

   The toe jumps consist of toe loop, flip, and Lutz. The entrance edge defines these jumps and they all vault off the toe pick of the other skate. As such, these jumps require a coordinated transfer of weight from the skating foot to the tap foot to achieve take-off.

   Some coaches have the major misconception that it is acceptable for the toe pick rotate or pivot on the ice. The origins of these beliefs are difficult to pinpoint. For a skater to take off backwards, the toe pick cannot pivot on the ice or a rotation of the hips occurs so the skaters are facing forward when they take-off. The result of this error is an under rotated jump that is downgraded.

   Very few skaters reach the elite level if they are pivoting forward when performing a flip and Lutz jump. Some coaches have the major misconception that skaters can open their hips to get through the jump during the thrust into the air and then immediately close the hips to get to the rotational position. The hips cannot physically open or close.

   The free leg position can be open (extended) or closed (tight as in a fast scratch spin).  A major error occurs when the free leg is in a “4” position about knee high. This wrapped position receives major negative GOEs.

   A forward takeoff attempt of a toe jump does not receive any credit from judges and technical panels.

   If a skater transfers 100% of the skaters weight to the toe pick prior to the take-off is a major error. This makes the picking foot and leg the primary driving force for the jump and converts the jump into “vaulting Loop like pivoting jump”.

Toe Loop was invented in the 1920’s by American professional show skater Bruce Mapes.

   The Toe Waltz or Toe Axel is an illegal jump that occurs when the skater enters on a back outside edge, and allows the free leg to swing behind the tracing causing the free foot and upper body to rotate forward. As the weight transfers to the toe pick the body pivots forward creating a half turn under rotation even as the skater lands on a back outside edge. Toe axels are easy to spot and are downgraded by technical panels and judges.

Toe Loop Rotation

Flip or toe salchow. Mr. Lussi and Bud Wilson invented the flip jump. Starting in the 1930’s this jump was regularly performed in competitions.

   The flip is performed on a shallow inside or flat edge. Some skaters have become sloppy performing their forward outside 3 turn into the takeoff. Instead of a 3 turn, they are performing an outside rocker, which puts them on an outside edge and receives an “edge” deduction.

   It is a major error for a skater to pivot to forward on the toe pick just before lifting off into the air.

Flip Rotation

Lutz was named after Austrian skater Alois Lutz who performed the jump in 1913.

   Today a Lutz that gets full credit in competition can be defined as:
Lutz jump must start on a back outside edge of skate without and change of edge, the skater inserts the toe pick solidly into the ice and the toe pick does not turn on the ice prior to springing into the air and rotating in the counter rotational direction, followed by landing on a back right outside edge.

Lutz Rotation

   It is a major error for a skater to pivot forward on the toe pick just before lifting off into the air.

   The discussion on toe jumps would not be complete without some mention of the most controversial aspects of these jumps.

   The most controversy appears to surround the “flutz” which is really just a flip that the skater intended to be a Lutz. But a similar argument can be made for skaters that intend to perform a flip and inadvertently performs a lutz instead. Admittedly, the number of skaters performing a flutz is much higher than those performing an unintended lutz instead of a flip.

   In the flutz, the skater starts on a back outside edge but switches the edge prematurely before picking and jumping. This is very common as many skaters have trouble generating the counter rotation of a lutz from the outside edge. By switching to an inside edge prior to take-off they can naturally rotate and perform a flip which is much easier.

   In the less common “flip-turned-into-a-Lutz” the skater usually performs a rocker instead of a three turn to get to the entrance edge which is now an outside edge. This error is much less common than the Flutz but some skaters find the Lflip take-off to be more stable and more powerful. This is especially true of skaters that have difficulty controlling the inside edge or controlling their hip positions during the pick placement and weight transfer while on an inside edge.

   Coaches can insure their skaters get credit by not hiding the Lutz jump into the corner on the same side where the judges sit.

   Coaches can easily look at the tracing during a practice session to determine if their skater is correctly executing the jump. They should not attempt to quibble by stating it was a short change of edge when the body lean demonstrates they are on the wrong edge.

   Coaches should strive for their students to 100% correctly executed the technique if they expect them to be a consistent winner when skating against a strong group of challengers.


Landing for success: a biomechanical and perceptual analysis of on-ice jumps in figure skating 
Authors: Kelly L. Lockwooda; Pierre J. Gervaisb; Donald R. Mccreary
Department of Physical Education & Kinesiology, Brock University, St Catharines, Ontario, Canada.

    Technical evaluation in the sport of figure skating is characterized by a subjective marking system. Figure skating judges are responsible for quickly and accurately discerning the quality of technical elements as well as assigning a score to the overall aesthetic appearance of a performance.
    Traditionally, overall placement marks are assigned for the entire performance; however, the landing of a jump is widely acknowledged as one of the most critical elements of a skater's program. Therefore, our aims were to identify the biomechanical variables that contribute to technical success in executing landings and to establish whether landings rated as biomechanically optimal are also awarded high technical merit scores by judges.

    Ten nationally ranked competitive figure skaters were asked to execute on-ice, double and triple revolution jumps and to try to land the jumps void of technical faults within a calibrated space. Data were collected at 60 Hz using standard three-dimensional videography. Data reduction was done using the APAS system (Ariel Dynamics Inc).

    Concurrently, videotapes were viewed and evaluated by 42 accredited judges to determine the perceived technical quality of the landing performances. Judges were asked to evaluate the landing phase of each jump against a landing criteria document. A comparative criteria model was developed to facilitate an assessment of excellence in landing performances through both empirical and subjective analyses.

    Results of these analyses were twofold: a biomechanical profile of on-ice landings was obtained, and on-ice jump landing strategies rated by empirical evaluations were in agreement with judge's perceptions of the same performances.

Apr 15, 2009 ... Program and the Free Skating; each feature will only be counted in the ..... They will evaluate the GOE as they see it (without slow motion)

Importance of jump combinations in free skating. To perform jumps in combination , a skater must have fast reactive ability.

Figure Skating Scoring and Judging - "A glimpse of hope?"
Feb 2, 2009 ... Sonia Bianchetti Garbato was a top figure skating official with the International Skating Union (ISU). The judges have great difficulty in evaluating the skaters'

For this study, the flight phase of figure skating jumps was simulated. The aim of this study was to evaluate the ability of human observers.

Code of Points Considered Harmful
The absurdities in the code of points aren't restricted to jumps.

Endurance runs, high jumps, long jumps, and throwing. ... Most studies used to evaluate physical performance have been in the field of athletics. ... gymnastics, skating),

swing the free leg in front of them and then to land on one leg, i.e., swing .... Concerning the artistic evaluation of the skating jump.

Some video footage will also be analyzed during free skating to Include foot .... Increased angulation hinders full extension on jumps, increases the ... evaluate whether this process Influences the qualiiy of their skating.

Profile of Gustave  Lussi, A Figure Skating Legend
The Underated Spin by Alexandra Stevenson.  Gus Lussi felt the back spin was the key in developing the correct stance for jumps. Button was the first to do a double axel in competition and later, in 1952, in his last year of competition, became the first to do a triple jump, the loop, which helped him win his second Olympic gold. Lussi also worked with Ronnie Robertson, who was second in the 1956 Olympics when he and the Jenkins brothers swept the medals for the United States. To this day Robertson is acknowledged as the world’s fastest spinner.

Landing for success: a biomechanical and perceptual analysis of on-ice jumps in figure skating   Authors: Kelly L. Lockwood; Pierre J. Gervais; Donald R. Mccreary, Department of Physical Education & Kinesiology, Brock University, St Catharines, Ontario, Canada.


The following internet links have been gleaned from personal communications
combined with information from public institutions and athletic organizations/
associations that have a web presence with information concerning team and
individual sports programs:
USFS Test Judging Topics
PDF  IJS Handbook
PDF  Judges Singles & Pairs Training Manual New  Evaluation of Jumps
PDF  Chart of Changes to MITF  9/2/2010 PDF  2011 USFS Tests Book 8/27/10
PDF  A need for Test Program Element Sheet
PDF  USFS Compulsory Figures Rules
Roles of Skating Judges and Coaches
Discussion of MITF Topics
New & Revised MITF Elements
Critiquing Skating Performances
Requirements to Pass MITF
MITF Judging Criteria
Critique Sheets
Basic Skating Judging Protocols
Basic Skills Judging Competitions
Worksheets & References for Judges
Test and Elite Standards
A Positive Environment for Adult Skaters
Focus of Free Skating Test Judging
Interpreting 6.0 Score Sheets

All materials are copy protected. 
The limited use of the materials for education purposes is allowed providing
credit is given for the source of the materials.

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