Ice Network

My first time: More on-ice success stories revealed

Hanyu imitates Asada to get triple axel; Abbott lands quad in jump event
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Jian Tong said that he and partner Qing Pang were surprised that they were able to land the throw triple toe the first time they tried it. -Getty Images

We asked more skaters to tell us about the first time they successfully executed a particularly challenging element after working on it for a long (or short) time. Read part one here.

Jeremy Abbott: Quad

I vividly remember landing the quad salchow the first time. It was my first year senior. It was at the Broadmoor Open, and there was a jumping competition. The rules were a little different then than they are now; we had three jumping passes with six total jumps. First, I did a triple-triple. Then you could do a double or triple axel, and then a triple or a quad. I went out and did a big double sal (on his first quad attempt). I had just started landing quads at the time. You only had two minutes to do all of this, and the whistle blew before I could try the quad again. Tom [Zakrajsek] talked the ref into letting me try another one, and I skated around the rink and nailed the quad salchow, and everyone in the stands was going crazy. I was really excited. I think they actually counted it, even though it was after the whistle. 

It's exhilarating, the feeling you get when you land something like that. You want to produce. You can feel it in the air and before you even land, and it's just a great feeling.

-- As told to Amy Rosewater

Yuzuru Hanyu: Triple axel

Let me think, when was the time I couldn't do a triple axel? Was it in my first grade at junior high school? Maybe not. Maybe it was in my second grade at junior high school. I joined a summer training camp where elite Japanese skaters were gathered. There, I watched how Mao Asada practiced her triple axel, and I realized it actually doesn't take much strength to nail it. Then I tried to imitate the way she jumps, to project the feeling when she jumps onto my own jump. Then I took up and that was it -- I got it.

-- As told to Wei Xiong

Jian Tong: Throw triple toe with Qing Pang

There were so many first-time experiences for us, but for most of them I have already forgotten what they felt like at the time, because it was so long ago. However, I can still remember our first throw triple toe, because we nailed it the first time we tried it.

I was quite surprised when we made it, so I immediately asked Qing, "How do you feel?" and she said, "I didn't feel anything...that's it?" We couldn't figure out why we were able to nail it so easily; I felt like it only took me a little bit of extra strength when I threw her, and that was it.

-- As told to Wei Xiong

Ashley Wagner: Double axel

For me, my most difficult element was my double axel. It took me four years to get it, and I almost quit skating because I couldn't get it. I was a novice lady, I was on the 20-minute warmup before regionals, and all of a sudden I got my double axel and my triple sal on the same practice ice, at the same time. I guess that's the story of my career -- that nothing ever makes sense! I did the axel in the program -- at that point, I couldn't even get nervous about it -- and I ended up winning regionals because of it.

-- As told to Sarah S. Brannen

Satoko Miyahara: Triple-triple

The one I remember the most is my first triple-triple. When I was competing in the junior circuit (during the 2011-12 season), I tried to put a triple flip-triple toe in my short program for the first time, and it was my first triple-triple. Because it was the short, I couldn't afford any mistakes, so I felt very nervous. When I successfully landed it in the competition, I was very happy. I still remember that happy feeling now.

-- As told to Wei Xiong

Nathalie Péchalat: Upside-down lift

I recall a "chandelle" (upside-down lift), in 2006, I guess. We had this lift idea, this picture (in our heads). We tried to do it on the floor for three or four weeks to make sure it was working, to find the right "take-off" and to know how to get down. Then, when everything was automated, we went on the ice and tried it.

It took maybe a week to be able to do it, the first time with some help, and then by ourselves. When we could do it very "easily," we were very proud because it was the first lift of our own. It is very rare to create a lift in a career. With the new rules, every lift looks the same.

It is much harder to create an element without knowing beforehand if it's possible, and reproduce it on the ice exactly as you want it. That lift needed precision; we fell only two times from it in our career. It's very risky, so we took a lot of precaution.

-- As told to Vladislav Luchianov

Shoma Uno: Triple axel

I can't even remember the first time I started to practice the triple axel. I think it was five or six years ago. I kept practicing and practicing for years, and kept thinking "I must nail it, I must nail it," but still I couldn't get it. It really took me too much time.

Then I started to practice quadruple toe, and I was feeling much happier when I was practicing it, because, unlike doing the triple axel, I wasn't in a hurry; I was playing with it for fun. Gradually, I started to land the quad toe consistently, and then I felt very relieved because I knew I didn't have to do a triple axel (to be competitive) now. Without the pressure, I finally got my triple axel, started to land it consistently in training the day before I went to my second junior grand prix event, in Croatia.

Actually, when I first landed the triple axel, I didn't feel like it was real. Instead of being emotional or excited, I was relieved. All I was thinking was, "Oh, finally."

-- As told to Wei Xiong

Rachael Flatt: Triple lutz-triple toe

I started working on triple-triples when I was a junior lady, and I tried my first triple toe-triple toe as a junior in 2006 in St. Louis. I fell really hard on it in my program. I was a little apprehensive to work on it after that.

The next season, I was moving up to senior, and I started working on triple flip-triple toe and triple lutz-triple toe, working a lot on the pole harness. I could do [lutz-toe] quite easily on the pole; it was just a question of taking enough speed into it off the harness. I just kept cheating and cheating and cheating it. I just couldn't get enough speed and height. I had some pretty nasty falls on it, like the one I had at nationals.

In the summer of 2006, there was one of those days where I'd been doing it on the pole harness and landing it really well. I ended up just wearing the harness, with one of my coaches (Erik Schulz) behind me holding the pole, but they weren't actually connected! It was just a mental thing -- I had to convince myself I was still on the harness. ... As soon as I took that risk, I just convinced myself that I could do it, and it was so easy. It just clicked.

-- As told to Sarah S. Brannen