There is a right way – and a wrong way – to fall
Amere fraction of a second separates landing a jump from crashing to the ice. And Patrick Chan can usually sense when he’s about to go down.
As with any competitive figure skater, Chan has landed on his backside thousands of times and has learned to lessen the blow.
There is a right way and a wrong way to fall.
“There’s a certain amount of bracing that you can create to lessen the impact. I do it subconsciously now, I flex or almost contract as I hit the ice, so it’s almost like a bounce as opposed to a splat on the ice,” Chan said, emphasizing “splat” with a smack of his palm.
“It’s a bounce where you kind of get a skip and get right back up on your feet. You’re not killing all your momentum on the ice, you’re carrying it across the ice, like the skip of a stone.”
If only falls were as graceful as skipping stones. The Gangneung Ice Arena has hosted a pageantry of unflattering tumbles at the Pyeongchang Olympics.
“I hate falling,” world silver medalist Kaetlyn Osmond said.
From alpine skiing to shorttrack speed skating, numerous winter sports feature spectacular crashes. But there’s nothing quite like a wince-inducing fall in figure skating. It’s a jarring interruption to a skater’s program, like a punctuation mark in a line of poetry.
“There are falls where I’ll come back to my coach Lee [Barkell] and I’ll say ‘I can feel my stomach in my throat,’ ” said Gabrielle Daleman, who won bronze behind Osmond at last year’s world championships.
Canada’s two-time world pairs champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford added the throw quadruple Salchow for the 201415 season, but the hours of perfecting it – and falling while doing it – took a toll on the 32-year-old Duhamel. “I have a permanent indent in my right hip from falling on the throw quad,” Duhamel said. “But it’s part of the game.”
A fall comes with a one-point deduction, and can be the difference between gold and missing the podium entirely.
It’s understandable that falls happen. Travelling at up to 32 kilometres an hour, balancing on what amounts to Ginsu knives on their feet, skaters can cover more than four metres on a quadruple jump, in less than a second, landing with the force seven times their body weight. The worst falls, skaters say, are the unexpected ones.
“We know how to brace ourselves, so that when we fall on a jump, it’s okay,” Osmond said. “It’s the freak falls that hurt the most. The ones when you’re doing choreography and you just hit your toe pick and … face on the ice.”