How to Spin Without Losing Your Lunch


Updated 8:27 AM PDT, Thu, Feb 25, 2010

Getty Images - Japan's Miki Ando in the ladies figure skating short program.

During Tuesday night’s Women’s Olympic figure skating short program, American Marai Nagasu developed a bloody nose. Nagasu blamed the problem on Vancouver’s air. But to some, it looked as if the condition was the result of a spin so fast, even the Tasmanian Devil would’ve been proud.  

To watch skaters spinning across the ice like tops, makes one wonder how it is they hang on to their lunches? The short answer: practice. The long answer: more practice.

“When kids start skating at a young age, they love that sensation of, ‘Oh I’m dizzy,” said former pro skater Paige Scott. As general manager of San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Ice Center, Scott helps train young skaters in the finer points of high speed spinning.

“You have so many other things you’re concentrating on when you’re spinning,” Scott said, lacing up a pair of skates. ”It starts to go away and you don’t pay attention to it.”

Scott said there are several technique’s employed by skaters to keep from getting dizzy. Some will simply close their eyes. Others use a technique common in ballet dancing called “spotting,” which involves staring at a fixed spot in the room.

Others will focus on their hands.

“They have their hands above their head,” said Scott. “They’ll focus on their hand rather than everything else that is spinning around them quite fast.”

Former National skating champion Shane Douglas said the key to getting over dizziness is to keep skating. “What we tell our students is keep spinning,” said Douglas. “The more you do, the less dizzy you get.” Douglas said it could take skaters about a year to get used to the dizziness. Douglas took to the ice of the Yerba Buena center, launching into a spin so fast, he suddenly became a whirring blur.

“I have seen people spin and have blood come up through their arms,” Douglas said. “So you can get going that fast.”    

Spins are required elements in Olympic skating. Skaters are compelled to perform three basic spins including the “sit spin,” “the camel spin,” and the “upright spin.” A skater will rotate on the forward part of the blade, just behind the toe.

On the ice of the Yerba Buena Center, Scott grabbed young Casey Valentine by the hand and spun him around several times, as if they were dancing the jitterbug. Valentine’s eyes rolled upwards as he tried to steady himself. Valentine, an amateur hockey player, said he was perfectly content to leave the spinning to the pros. “Sometimes I try,” Valentine said. “But I usually fall over."