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What Is a Triple Axel?

Finally! This Gold Medalist Figure Skater Explains Why Triple Axels Are So Damn Hard

When Mirai Nagasu made history by being the first American woman to land a triple axel at the Olympics, we couldn't help but cheer along with her and her teammates. It was thrilling to see her accomplish such a feat! But then we sat back and wondered. . . Why is a triple axel so much harder than any other triple jump in figure skating?

We've got your answer. Dorothy Hamill, gold medalist in the 1976 Olympics and spokesperson for Nature's Bounty, explained just why this jump is such a difficult one to master.

Dorothy reminded us that all the triple jumps we see in the Olympics require three rotations in the air. "Triple axel is three and a half rotations," she told POPSUGAR. "And it's a jump that takes off on a forward edge — that makes it have the extra half turn." Whoa.

"It's the hardest one for so many people," Dorothy confirmed. "And often it's the nemesis of people. You're either a great axel jumper or not. It's all about timing, and it's all about your body being the perfect position to be able to land it clean."

Every single detail counts! It's no wonder the world erupted in celebration when Mirai landed it. "[It] was so spectacular. It was a near perfect textbook triple axel — especially for a woman," Dorothy recalled. She then explained why triple axels are so much harder for women than for men: "because we have curves and body parts that make it a little more difficult when you have that speed going in." You have to "lift off that edge perfectly, because if anything is out of line, it will be worse after three and a half rotations. So it's a big deal."

When we asked Dorothy whether she thinks Mirai will include the jump again in the free skate on Feb. 22. "I think so," she mused. "She has nothing to lose. I don't know if it's planned, but I imagine it is." Best of luck to her if she goes for it!

Image Source: Getty / Jamie Squire
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