Friday, November 23, 2007

What happened to the Axel?

Remember when Triple Axels were this amazing jump that were big and huge and almost always coupled with a Triple Toeloop. I'm talking amazing Axels like those of Alexei Urmanov, Elvis Stojko, Ilia Kulik, and Todd Eldridge. Remember those days?

What has happned to this jump. The number of men in the world of figure skating these days that can do a great Axel is diminishing. Hell, Mao Asada has a better Axel than most of the men! World Champ Joubert's Axels are small and the landings are always "muscled." I have rarely (if ever?) seen him do a Triple Axel/Triple Toe combination. Former World Champ Lambiel often doesn't even try the jump and when he does it it's downgraded to a double half the time. Daisuke Takahashi hurries and gets the jump out of the way at the top of the program, rarely doing more than a triple/double combo. Kevin Van Der Perren has to do this "wings of an airplane flap" before leaving the ice (seriously, watch closely the next time you see him)on his axel...often it is unsuccessful. Jeffrey Buttle's consistency on his Axel has improved (I recently saw him hit a Triple Axel/Triple Toe at Skate Canada) but it still lacks some finesse. American Evan Lysacek skids the take off horribly, I'm continually amazed at how often he lands the jump, a testament to his ability. Don't get me started on U.S. Silver Medalist Ryan Bradley's word, haphazard! Most of the other competitors in the world are lucky if Triple Axel is even in their repertoire of jumps let alone landing it in competition.

However I have reserved some space for whom I think the three best Axel jumpers in the world are today. Third best is an up and comer in the world of figure skating. Sergei Voronov has a great Triple Axel and I think he has learned some great technique from his coach, Olympic Champ Alexei Urmanov. Second best is American Johnny Weir. When he swings his leg through he turns beautifully and the ride out of the landing is beautiful. You will almost always see his Axel coupled with a Triple Toeloop. I would judge it the best but I think he could add a touch more height! In my opinion, the best Axel in the world goes to a skater that has tremendous height on the Triple Axel, beautiful soft kneed landings, wonderful ride out, and a big smile on the end to boot! The honor goes to no other but Nobunari Oda! Now Nobunari...stay out of trouble, no more MUI's (mopedding under the influence!), get back to competing, and show us that pretty axel of yours!


Anonymous said...

Well, if one is an Ilia fan (and I am) the axel is alive and well. He does doubles all the time and triples are now creeping back into his routines - he did one last night in Lake Placid at the opening of SOI and it's planned in his first number "Inspiration." When he does them, the form, height, amplitude is exactly what it always has been and that's amazing considering he is 10 years out from his win in Nagano.

Ilia has discussed the 3A in interviews with the Krew and is very interesting on the subject. He knows that it's his jump and that he understands it technically in the most minute detail. We were talking about the problem that many of the men you've discussed have with it, skidding into the lift off, and he said that he has actually practiced entering the jump in every way he could possible conjure up including a skid - that you have to learn how to do that if you're going to rely on the jump in competition. He has also coached (with greater or lesser success) some top men in the 3A (I'm thinking of both Lambiel and Takahashi) but says that coaching elite skaters isn't really teaching much as they have their way of doing things established and most (not all) of them will not deconstruct and reconstruct any jump, regardless of their difficulties with it. His strength in coaching this jump is that he really can take it apart bit by bit and build it up again on the floor (where he insists that it should be mastered)and then he says it just gets better on the ice. All very interesting.


Susan said...

Completely agree with you putting 1998 gold medalist Ilia Kulik as one of the best Axel jumpers. I was reminded how great he was yesterday while watching the NBC special Kristi Yamaguchi - Friends and Family. I had forgotten how formidable he was back in the competitive days and he still has the amazing technique and form. Would love to see an Ilia vs. Weir competition.

Aaron said...

His axel is just beautiful. Ilia vs Johnny...Ilia would stomp him! That would be fun!