Olympic figure skaters appear to fly through the air with the greatest of ease -- until they land on the wrong edge of the skate blade and flop awkwardly on the ice.
It’s every skater’s nightmare, and in the pressure-cooker atmosphere of the Winter Games, one bad move can ruin a chance at the podium. Despite years of intense training, skaters battle to fully rotate their jumps, spin perfectly and land those lutzes.
Here are some of the better-known flubs to look for in Sochi.
The lutz is the second-most difficult jump after the axel. In a perfectly executed triple lutz, the skater launches backwards from an outside skate edge, turns three times in the air, and lands cleanly on one foot, still skating backwards. Nervous skaters sometimes take off from an inside edge, a technical flaw dubbed a “flutz.” TV viewers may not notice the mistake, but sharp-eyed judges will consider the jump a flip instead of a lutz, and deduct points accordingly.
Each jump, from the simple salchow to the quad toe loop, has a required number of airborne turns. Under-rotating results in a skater landing with bad form but managing to stay upright, two-footing a landing, or landing sideways and crashing. Or, the skater “pops” the jump in mid-air and fails to complete the turns. Worst-case scenario? The skater forfeits all the jump’s points.
Spins need speed and inventive positions to really wow the Olympic judges. Another important element: Avoiding “traveling,” the bad habit of twirling across the ice during spin combinations. Spins should always be rooted on one spot while the skater changes edges, skating foot, arm position and leg extension.
Missed combination jumps
Men’s and women’s single skaters must have complex combination jumps in their routines if they want to compete at the top level. One example is the triple lutz-triple toe loop that Yu-Na Kim completed in her gold medal performance in Vancouver. Each jump is connected without extra steps. If the first jump isn’t perfect, though, the second probably won’t be either.
Pairs and ice dance skaters are judged on their unison -- the ability for both partners to execute mirror-image moves. In pairs routines, danger lurks in the side-by-side jumps and spins; if one partner wipes out on a jump, both skaters lose points. Losing unison during side-by-side spins also reflects badly on their presentation score. Ice dancing has no jumps, but the team must perform side-by-side multi-rotational spins called twizzles. If it’s not flawless, they’ll fizzle.