North Texas Olympic Hopefuls Set Sights on the Triple Axel - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
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North Texas Olympic Hopefuls Set Sights on the Triple Axel

UTA professor explains the physics of figure skating

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    NEWSLETTERS

    North Texas Olympic Hopefuls Set Sights on the Triple Axel

    When Mirai Nagasu became the first American woman to attempt and land the triple axel jump in the Olympics, she set the bar high for North Texas skating hopefuls. (Published Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018)

    Most afternoons, the Dr Pepper StarCenter in Farmers Branch is dotted with young figure skaters — some of them hoping to skate into the Olympics one day.

    "I've learned all my triples, and now I'm working on all of my triple-triples," said Beverly Wooden. The 13-year old figure skater knows one day she'll have to attempt the hardest jump for female skaters.

    "The triple axel. But I've not learned that one yet," she said.

    This week, Mirai Nagasu became the first skater on the U.S. Women's Olympic Team to attempt and land a triple axel at the Olympics.

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    "I guess triple axel is a possibility now," said Wooden, who pointed out the 'triple axel' isn't exactly named accurately. "Because all the other triple jumps, you rotate three times, where with triple axel you rotate three-and-a-half times."

    Andrew Brandt, a physics professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, explained one of the forces at work to complete the triple axel.

    "Conservation of angular momentum," Brandt said. "It sounds like a complicated 'physicsy' thing."

    It means the lighter the body, the more centered the weight, the faster a skater can spin.

    Speed and height are essential to complete the triple axel. With skaters pushing limits all the time, what is the human body's physical limit?

    "Well, some people say the quintuple is impossible," Brandt said. "Because of the force involved, you wouldn't have the bone structure or whatever to be able to do that."

    The quad jump could be next for women.

    "Yeah, by next Olympics," said figure skating coach Julia Golovina, a former Ukrainian Olympic skater. "Without it, you're not going to be competitive enough."

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