The History of American Women Making History With the Triple Axel

Izzy Harvey, Staff Writer

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This year, the Olympics changed for American female figure skaters when Mirai Nagasu’s triple axel made history. She is now the first American woman to land a triple axel in an Olympic competition, which led to a bronze medal for Team USA. Monday night was abuzz with whispers as she took the ice, her flaming red outfit contrasting heavily with the staunch white ice. Her first attempt at the troubling jump was rocky, but by the end of the program, she made history.

The triple axel has dominated the sport as one of the hardest jumps to complete, making it a head turner in competition. Unlike its backward takeoff counterparts, it consists of a forward jump, three and a half turns in the air, and a landing on the right foot to complete it. What many don’t understand is this isn’t just a “hard jump”: it is a beast.

The triple axel is essentially a physics problem turned into a program, like many other aspects of sports. Two years ago, physics students took to the whiteboard to dissect Simone Biles’ gravity defying jumps, but this year figure skating is the topic among schools. This physics problem has come to light because understanding the triple axel requires a frame-by-frame breakdown. The forward takeoff gives the jump another half rotation, but what is unique about it is the absence of a toe pick thrust. The momentum comes from the skater’s body movements, a basic principle that many forget about.

Nagasu is one of the many “firsts” in this jump, along with Tonya Harding and Midori Ito, the first woman to land a triple axel. The intensity and complexity of this jump have made these women icons in competition.

Tonya Harding, American figure skater and now subject of the movie “I, Tonya,” was the first American woman to land the triple axel in competition. Her scandal with fellow skater Nancy Kerrigan overshadowed this accomplishment, but she is still considered a prominent icon of the figure skating world.

Mirai Nagasu became the first American Woman to land the triple axel in the Olympics, making her the first American woman to land one of the hardest and most complex jumps in any program. She also did this at, arguably, the most difficult competition in the world. These women have made history, and will continue to inspire other skaters to push the limits and expand figure skating into a sport of “firsts.”

 

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