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Vox, YouTube

Have You Seen This? Why the triple axel is such a big deal

By Mary Dalrymple,  |  Posted Feb 12th, 2018 @ 1:15pm



THE ICE RINK — In case you missed it, U.S. figure skater Mirai Nagasu made history yesterday.

And it wasn't just because she finally made it to the Olympics and was part of the reason the U.S. figure skating team took home a bronze medal in the team competition. No, Nagasu made history by doing what no American woman has ever done before: She landed a triple axel during an Olympic competition.

After training for years, the 24-year-old skater from Arcadia, California, took to the ice and within the first 30 seconds of her routine, she had changed the game forever. Her triple axel was quick, executed perfectly, and if you blinked or looked away from the TV for a second, you would have missed it.

But if it's so quick and easy to miss for us non-skaters, why is it such a big deal? Thanks to this video from Vox, we now have an answer, and it pretty much all comes down to physics.

"The more you know about the triple axel, the more impressive it gets," the video's narrator says.

Yesterday's Have You Seen This?

He goes on to explain how skaters must perfectly calculate the right approach, velocity, angle, thrust, momentum, landing, etc., etc., etc., in order to execute the jump properly. Trying to do all that in your head while also spinning 3 1/2 rotations in midair and then balancing more than 500 pounds of force upon landing is no easy feat. Once you consider all of that, it's no wonder the move is so rare.

Watch the video to see the steps broken down and all the physics of the jump laid out in detail, and, of course, to become an even bigger fan of Nagasu herself who, when asked to describe the move in one word simply said, "historical."

After all those years of training (and watching previous Olympics with fellow skater Adam Rippon while eating In-N-Out), I think Nagasu can happily say her hard work paid off, in the form of a medal.

Mary Dalrymple,
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