Spins are performed either forward or backward. In a forward spin, the skater’s body rotates forward in the direction of the spin. Counterclockwise skaters perform most forward spins on the LBI edge. Advanced skaters may perform camels on the LFO edge. Conversely, backward spins or “back spins” are performed on the RBO edge, and the skater’s body rotates backward in the direction of the spin. Whether the skater performs a forward or backward spin, rotation occurs in the same direction (i.e. counterclockwise skaters spin in a counterclockwise direction). The leg upon which the spin is executed determines whether it is a forward or backward spin.
All spins whether forward or backward should be centered. “Centering” refers to the positioning of a spin on the ice. Ideally, every revolution of the spinning blade will overlay the previous tracings, creating a circular impression in the ice (Figure 1). Perfect centering is not easy to achieve. Most spins “travel”, meaning the blade tracings are off set from each other. Figure 2 shows the tracing of a spin that traveled for a couple of rotations before achieving a center. This spin is reasonably good. The spin in Figure 3 travels around a central axis and would be considered satisfactory. While some minor degree of traveling is permissible, spins that travel across the ice leaving a corkscrew pattern are undesirable (Figure 4).
Figure 1, Centered Spin
Figure 2, Spin Travels Slightly Before Centering
Figure 3, Spin Travels Around an Axis
Figure 4, Spin Travels Unacceptably
Basic Two Foot Spin
Basic two-foot spins are the first spins taught to beginning skaters. They are simply forward spins performed on two feet. These spins are rarely seen beyond the lowest competitive levels.
Crossed Leg Spin
While only beginners perform basic two-foot spins, crossed foot spins can be a dazzling part of an elite skater’s program because they are particularly difficult to perform well. As the name implies, the spin is performed on both feet with the legs crossed. The body weight must be centered over the outside edges of the rockers of both blades. Skaters enter the spin from a forward or backward one-foot spin crossing the free foot over the skating foot and placing it on the ice.
Pivots resemble spins in that they involve rotation of the body around a stationary axis. That axis is defined by the skater placing a toe pick in the ice and scribing a circle with the blade of the other foot around that pivot point. Pivots are commonly performed as a conclusion to a spin providing an alternative to the traditional gliding exit or abrupt halting by placing the toe pick of the free blade into the ice. A gracefully performed pivot can also add to the aesthetic quality of a routine.
The most common pivots which rotate CCW include: right toe pick stationary with LBI edge, left toe pick stationary with RFI edge and left toe pick stationary with RBO edge. The LFO pivot (with right toe pick) is awkward and rarely seen.
There are two basic preparations used to initiate forward spins. The most common is back crossovers. Counterclockwise skaters perform right over left back crossovers, which travel in the clockwise direction. Before entering the spin, the skater glides on a RBI edge and turns his shoulders counterclockwise. This is the “wind up” segment of the preparation. Then the skater steps into the circle with his left foot, upon which he will perform the forward spin. During the step the shoulders are released as the left arm pushes into the spin. The left knee bends deeply. One full revolution is generally completed on a bent knee before snapping up into the spinning position. While spinning, the skating knee should be kept slightly relaxed rather than completely straight, preventing the skater from hitting the toe pick and losing control of the spin. Depending on the type of forward spin the skater performs the timing and details of the body position incorporated in the preparation may vary slightly.
The second preparation, which is commonly used for flying spins is also effective for forward spins. The counterclockwise skater performs a RFI3 then steps into the tangent circle with the left foot. Of course, there are many different ways a skater can step into a forward spin. Skaters may step directly out off the landing edge of a jump into a spin. Forward spins may also be included in spin combinations as the skater pushes out of a backspin transferring his weight from the right foot to the left. Common examples include sit spin combinations where the skater may change between backward and forward sit spins as well as concluding a spin combination by stepping form a backward spin into a fast forward scratch spin.
Backward spins are initiated from a RFI3 turn. At the apex of the turn, the skater bends deeply in the knee to center the spin and convert forward momentum into angular rotation. The knee bend as well as timing, arm position and coordination of upper and lower body contribute to centering the spin. After about one revolution, the skater rises from the bent knee to lock the spinning position.
While backward spins can be performed in isolation, they most often occur in combination with a forward spin. To transition from a forward to backward spin, the skater places the right foot on the ice and pushes with the left back inside edge to transfer his weight from the left foot to the right. The push resembles a push into a pivot or a push to initiate a back outside edge. The left foot should scribe a wide arc, which centers the backspin.
One Foot Spins
Basic Upright Spin
Executed either forward or backward, the basic upright position consists of an erect posture and free foot held next to the skating foot with the side of the toe touching the calf of the skating leg. This position has also been called a “stork spin” because it resembles a stork standing on one leg. Basic upright spins introduce beginning freestyle skaters to the concept of spinning on one foot. While this is the simplest one-foot spin, it occurs often in competitive spin combinations, often serving as a final position before concluding the spin with a flowing exit edge or pivot.
This is the classic spin performed at the end of many skating programs. The skater enters the spin standing upright with the free leg extended forward and toward the free side. In order to increase the speed of the spin, free leg is pulled in front of the body curving around the axis of rotation. The skater pushes the free foot down crossing over the skating leg. Simultaneously, the arms are also brought in close to the body then either pushed down toward the pelvis or lifted above the head. This generates great speed, and under the best circumstances creates a blurred effect. This spin may be performed forward or backward.
A variation on the basic scratch spin, the headless spin gives an illusion of the skater’s head disappearing at the peak of the spin. As the spin increases speed by pushing the free leg down, the skater brings his arms in toward his chest then raises them to neck height. With the arms positioned at the neck, the skater tilts his head back to look straight upward as the spin blurs. The head is hidden by the arms and skater appears to be a "headless" spinning blur. The spin must be perfectly centered to maintain balance during this maneuver.
The camel spin is performed in a spiral position in which the body is tilted forward and the free leg raised. Depending on the skater’s limberness; the body may be flat forming a “T” shape, the torso may be raised above the plane of the free leg resulting in swan dive position, or the torso and free leg may both be elevated creating a gentle curve. Countless variations of the basic camel have been performed including layover camels in which the body rotates to face upward, catch camels involving the skater grasping the free leg and kneeling camels when the skater bends his knee dipping into a lowered body position. Camels and their variations can be performed forward or backward.
Outside Edge Camel
The most advanced technique for performing a forward camel is to transition to an outside edge while spinning. Skaters initially learn to do a forward camel spinning on a LBI edge. However, as a skater becomes more proficient, he learns to execute the spin on a LFO edge. After initiating the spin, the skater completes a LBI3 resulting in a LFO edge, as shown in Figure 5. By spinning toward the back of the blade, the spin is forced forward and can achieve great speed. Outside edge camels generally rotate on a larger circle than their inside edge variants.
Similarly, advanced skaters may perform backward camels on the RFI edge rather than the RBO, which is typical of backspins. The skater completes a RBO3 turn to transition to the RBI edge.
Figure 5, Outside Edge Camel Tracing
A variation on the basic swan dive position, the layover is most often performed as a back camel, though forward versions can be very beautiful and interesting. To achieve a layover, the skater rotates his torso upward during the spin. In the most extreme cases, his face and chest are directed upward toward the ceiling.
A more dramatic position than the layover, the inverted backward camel requires the skater to open her hips allowing her free foot to rotate such that the toe points up. Adding originality to a spin combination, a skater who has developed proficiency with the inverted back camel may adopt an interesting leg position by bending the leg rather than keeping it outstretched. The inverted camel is performed exclusively as a backward spin.
The inverted backward camel is an uncommon move in ice skating, not necessarily because it is overly difficult but because it is not a required test element. However, female artistic roller skaters are required to perform inverted backward camels, and they are included in almost every advanced woman’s program. Both Nicole Bobek (USA) and Josee Chouinard (Canada) perform excellent inverted backward camels on ice.
The donut spin is a variation of a catch foot backward camel in which the skater usually performs a basic back camel then grasps her free foot or blade. The skater bends her back and draws the free foot to her head, creating a circular position parallel to the ice. The overall effect looks like a donut on a stick, the stick being the skating leg. Ideally, the skater achieves this position without dropping the hip during the grab to creating a continuous flow of movement through the change of position.
The sit spin is simply a spin performed in a seated position with the free leg extended in front of the body and the foot pointed out. The quality of the spin is determined not only by its speed and center but also by the body position and depth of the seated position. In general, a spin with a straight back and shoulders is superior to one in which the skater’s body is hunched or rounded. Similarly, a straight free leg is more desirable than if the free leg were curled around the skating leg. A deeply seated spin requiring a fully bent skating leg is preferred to a spin in which the skater appears to be squatting over the ice. Skaters demonstrate mastery of the sit spin by performing both forward and backward spins with equally attractive positions on a deeply bent knee. Like the camel, there are many variations of the sit spin.
Broken Leg Sit Spin
A common variation of the sit spin is the broken leg sit spin. As its name implies, the skater’s free leg is bent and held to the side. This gives the leg a “broken” appearance in contrast to the straight extended free leg position achieved in ideal conventional sit spins. In the broken leg variant, the body generally leans toward the free side. This position resembles a fusion between a layback and a sit spin. Broken leg sit spins are rarely performed backward.
Cannonball Sit Spin
In the cannonball variation, the skater leans forward to hold the free leg and rest his head on the free knee. This spin may be performed forward or backward.
Pancake Sit Spin
The pancake sit spin was made famous by Swiss champion Lucinda Ruh. Her version is a variation on the backward sit spin. The free leg bends and the foot is placed on the knee of the skating leg. The skater bends forward touching her head to the knee. The overall effect creates a round flat body position, like a pancake. This spin may also be performed as a forward sit spin.
Tucked Sit Spin
Another variation that incorporates elements of the cannonball sit spin is the tucked sit. Similar to the pancake the spin may be performed forward or backward and requires and compact body position. Instead of propping the free leg on top of the skating knee (as in the pancake), the free leg tucks behind. The skater will often rise from the sitting posture with the leg still tucked behind and complete the spin with an upright variation.
This spin was popularized by Canadian skater, Emmanuel Sandhu. It is often incorporated into combinations following a sit spin. It may be performed forward or backward. The skater rises from the sit position, grabs the free foot, ankle or calf depending on the desired effect or flexibility. Ideally, as the skater leans forward his head touches free leg and his body folds neatly over the straight free leg. This spin was nicknamed the "butt spin" by fans when it first appeared on the competitive scene because the skater's backside was in the air pointed toward the ceiling. In the most successful cases, the bodyline resembles a capital "A".
Layback spins are upright spins in which the skater arches her back such that her chest faces upward. While this move was traditional considered a feminine element, it is now being incorporated into men’s programs. Ideally, the shoulders are parallel to the ice rather than tilted to one side. The free leg is held back and to the side with the foot turned out and parallel to the ice. The free leg position is a common source of error in the layback. A dangling bent free leg with the knee pointing downward toward the ice is considered undesirable. Arm positions are limitless.
Few skaters execute backward spins in a layback position. However, some perform variations on the upright backspin in which the free leg passes behind the skating leg and the skater bends at the knee. In rare cases, this position can be exaggerated to achieve a sitting spin.
Limber skaters perform variations of the layback that involve catching the free foot and lifting it toward the head or over the head. The lift may be accomplished with one hand or both. When the free leg is lifted above the head with both hands creating a vertical split position the spin is known as a “Biellmann”, popularized by the 1981 Ladies’ World champion from Switzerland, Denise Biellmann.
Sideways Leaning Spin
While tilting sideways in the layback may be considered a fault, a spin which intentionally leans to the side can be an interesting addition to a limber skater’s program. The free leg is held to the side and the body arches above it with the arms usually stretched over the head, creating a sharp curve from the fingertips to the pointed toe of the free foot. An uncommon spin, it is usually performed forward and may be included in an innovative combination with a traditional layback.
The attitude spin combines the leg position of a layback with an upright posture. The arms may be positioned creatively or simply held to form a “V” above the shoulders.
The corkscrew is an upright spin, performed forward or backward. The skater places the free foot behind the knee of the skating leg. The skating knee bends slightly. By extending one arm over the head and crossing the other over the chest, the skater’s body appears to twist like a corkscrew as it rotates.
Illusions are generally performed from a backward spin, but have been also executed forward. As a backward spin, the skater swings the free leg forward and up then reaches down toward the ice with the hand on the skating side as the free leg swings to the back and upward. This combination of movements creates an illusion of the skater rotating like a pinwheel around her hips. A single illusion provides a dramatic finale to a spin combination. When performed in a series, sequential illusions resemble a windmill rotating about its axis. In the best illusions, the skater appears to invert completely as the free leg swings upward and the torso drops down to the skating leg. Much of the drama of the illusion is lost when skaters perform sequential illusions that do not achieve this exaggerated position. Instead, the skater seems to bob up and down like a rotating teeter-totter.
Countless unnamed spins exist which are invented creative limber skaters and their coaches. As these spins gain recognition, they are often named after the first skater credited with performing the spin in competition. A well-known example is the Biellmann spin, popularized by the 1981 World Ladies’ Champion, Denise Biellmann of Switzerland. The Beilmann spin has become a staple element in ladies skating and has also been performed by male skaters. The move requires a very limber back and legs as well as superior spinning ability.
Usually skaters avoid traveling while spinning. Good spins are supposed to be centered. However, there are a couple of exceptions. These moves resemble spins because the skater rotates while traveling across the ice, but the fact that traveling is intentionally achieved separates these elements from traditional spins. Traveling spins may also be classified as footwork since the traveling motion is achieved through a series of turns, as shown in
Figure 6. Notice the difference between the forward traveling spin tracing in Figure 6 and the tracing of a forward spin that travels unintentionally, as shown in Figure 4.
Figure 6, Traveling Forward Spin Tracing
True to its name, the traveling camel looks like a basic forward camel spin that moves in a wide arc across the ice. Rather than rotating on the LBI edge to create a centered camel spin, the skater performs sequential three turns while maintaining a camel position. The turns are as follows: LFO3, LBI3, LFO3, LBI3, etc. To achieve the traveling effect, the LBI3 is performed on the heel of the blade. The skater must lift the forward portion his blade completely off the ice in order to turn on the heel. Dropping back to the ice, the skater pushes forward on the blade to glide into the next LFO3 turn. Alternating LFO3 and LBI3 turns are performed to maintain the traveling camel.
Traveling camels may be performed alone or initiated from a series of stars (described below). An effective traveling camel culminates in a centered camel, flying camel or butterfly. In some cases, a traveling camel may emerge from a centered camel.
Stars are a series of toe-assisted three turns performed in a camel position that travel in a wide arc, almost linearly, across the ice. As the skater performs a LFO3, his torso dips downward and his free leg extends above the plane of the body. As he begins to pivot forward in the next turn, the toe pick of free foot touches the ice assisting in a LBI3 turn and propelling the skater forward. After pushing, the free leg swings upward again for the next LFO3 turn. The torso remains lowered throughout the series of turns to simulate a camel posture.
After completing several stars, the skater may omit the toe push and continue to cover the ice in a traveling camel. Other options include, centering a forward camel, jumping into a flying camel, performing a butterfly or Arabian cartwheel.
Traveling Backward Camel
The traveling backward camel is also a common move in artistic roller skating, though some ice skaters use it as a novel entrance to a centered backward camel. Like the basic traveling forward camel, the travel is achieved through a series of three-turns performed in a camel position, similar to the forward traveling spin tracing illustrated in Figure 6. For the counterclockwise skater the turns are RFI3, RBO3 and RFI3 into a backward camel. A longer sequence of turns may be used to exaggerate the traveling effect.
Upright turns may also be performed leading into a backward camel or other backward spin variation.
A Hillary Spin is a series of upright three-turns leading into a basic back spin. For a counterclockwise skater, the sequence includes RFI3, RBO3, RFI3, RBO3, etc. The number of turns in the sequence may vary as desired but must conclude with a RFI3 initiating a backspin. Usually, the turning pattern forms a large circle in the center of the rink before pulling a backward scratch spin.
Miscellaneous Traveling Spins
By performing the sequential three turns in an attractive upright position, skaters can become accustomed to the rhythm of a traveling spin. This exercise also results in mastery of an upright traveling spin variation, which can culminate in an attitude, layback or scratch spin.
Forward sit spins can also intentionally travel across the ice by performing the same series of three turns in a seated position. Similarly, skaters can achieve a traveling seated maneuver on both feet by squatting and executing a series of two-footed turns rocking from the front to heel of both blades. These moves are very unusual and are generally seen in professional or exhibition routines.
Spin combinations may be performed on one foot or involve a change of foot. One-foot combinations require only a change of position while change foot combinations require the skater to change feet while spinning. Variations of position are infinite. The difficulty of one foot and change foot combinations involves maintaining or increasing speed during the transitions. A solid combination also requires the skater to hold each position for several revolutions such that control over the position is demonstrated. Weak combinations are characterized by loss of speed and flow throughout the transitions and the skater barely achieving a position before switching to the next.
Certain combinations such as a back sit spin to a back camel (no change of foot) are difficult to complete because little opportunity exists to gain speed in the transition. The forward camel to forward sit spin (or scratch spin) are the first combinations most skaters learn because generating speed in the transition occurs readily as the body converts from an open position to a more tightly closed position around the rotational axis.
Spin combinations are generally named based on their components. Examples of combinations that involve a change of feet include the following: sit-change-sit (also known as a forward sit spin-change-back sit spin), camel-change-camel, and camel-change-sit. Abbreviated names imply the first spin is performed forward and the change involves a change of feet to a backward spin. Combinations that do not require a change of feet are named similarly as follows: forward camel-layback, back camel-back sit spin, forward camel-sit spin-scratch spin. The word “change” is omitted.
Other spin combinations require a jump to change feet. These will be discussed in the Flying Spin section.
A notable exception to this basic nomenclature system is a spin combination popularized by 1976 Olympic gold medallist, Dorothy Hamill. Her well-recognized spin combination is called a “Hamill Camel”. The Hamill Camel is usually initiated from a flying camel. After maintaining the back camel position for several revolutions, the skater bends slowly in knee without sacrificing the camel posture. Before the free leg can touch the ice, or after a slight tap, the skater flips over into a back sit spin.
The definitions provided in the technical glossary are offered in good faith for personal use. They are not necessarily official definitions.
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