EXPLAINER: How figure skaters perform quadruple jumps
BEIJING (AP) — Russia’s ‘Quad Squad’ of figure skaters will seek an Olympic podium landing the thrilling quadruple jumps that remain rare in women’s competition. But could skaters ever add a fifth rotation to their jumps?
Sports experts say it’s unclear what the human limits might be to the number of rotations a skater could complete. Quadruple jumps have become the norm in men’s competition since Canadian Kurt Browning landed the first in 1988. In women’s, Japan’s Miki Ando achieved the feat in 2002.
Yet the quads featured in women’s skating at the Beijing Games have only made a strong appearance in recent years.
Here is an overview of how the jumps are made.
WHAT DETERMINES THE ROTATIONS IN A JUMP?
To complete as many rotations as possible during a jump, experts say skaters need to launch themselves as high and far into the air as possible to maximize their rotation time.
The speed and strength needed to launch – and land – is part of why quads are more common in men’s skating.
But one factor that could favor women is a skater’s body size. A skater with a narrow frame, for example, might have an advantage over those with broad shoulders, said Michigan State University body movement expert Rajiv Ranganathan. This could allow them to hold their body more tightly with their arms in the air, allowing them to perform more rotations.
WHAT DO QUADS INVOLVE?
A quadruple jump involves four rotations, as the name suggests. But exactly how skaters achieve the feat can vary.
In recent years, it’s become more common for skaters to start spinning before lifting off the ice, said Polina Edmunds, who competed at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. This rotation – known as pre-rotation – is another reason why quads in women’s skating aren’t as rare as they used to be.
“The line is blurry right now because we’re not looking at or penalizing pre-rotation,” she said.
There is pressure in the skating community for pre-rotation, which can consist of a half turn or more, to be considered in scoring, Edmunds said. Currently, the technical panel is looking to see if the bearing is clean.
HOW ARE SKATERS AFFECTED?
Landing quadruple jumps can be extremely stressful on the body.
With basketball or volleyball, for example, players land more gradually starting with the balls of their feet, which helps distribute impact absorption, said performance coach Karl Erickson. athlete at the Mayo Clinic. With skating, the landing is more abrupt and on one foot attached to a skate.
“It’s a crazy force that they have to be able to absorb quickly and land with grace,” Erickson said.
Since skaters are rewarded for attempting quads even if they don’t land them, they may feel pressured to try them, Edmunds said.
“More young girls are going to try these quads, even at the cost of landing badly and risking injury,” she said.
Edmunds also noted the young age of skaters landing quads in women’s skating, which reflects the advantages of being petite. The Russian favorite Kamila Valieva, leader after the short program, is 15 years old. Her teammates, Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova, are both 17 years old.
WHAT ABOUT THE DRUG SCANDAL?
A sample taken from Valieva a few weeks before the Olympics tested positive for a drug banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
The drug, trimetazidineis intended to help increase blood flow to the heart, which would typically help older people with heart disease, said Dr. Michael Fredericson of Stanford University School of Medicine.
For athletes, he said the increased blood flow could potentially help increase endurance, allowing them to exercise intensely for a longer period of time. He said it’s not clear what benefit it could bring to a skater.
Valieva’s lawyers cited contamination from heart medication her grandfather was taking.
HOW MANY ROUNDS COULD A SKATER DO?
It is not known how many extra rotations a skater could achieve. But past assumptions about the limits of human performance — such as the 4-minute mile — have proven wrong, Michigan State’s Ranganathan noted.
The next leap forward in jumping appears to be the quad axel, a 4 1/2 revolution jump that Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu fell last week when he attempted to become the first to land the jump start in competition.
Still, Ranganathan noted the height needed for spins in skating jumps.
“That could possibly limit the number of rotations we could possibly achieve,” he said.
AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta contributed to this report.
The Associated Press Health and Science Department is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.