130 years of the Axel jump

Axel Paulsen

By Olga Fluegge,
special to World Figure Skating

This year marks the one hundred thirty years to the one of the most famous figure skating jumps – the Axel.

Axel Paulsen (1855-1938) was a renowned Norwegian figure and speed skater who influenced the history of figure and speed skating.

He was the representative of the so-called “Nordic style”. This style was characterized by high speed and powerful, wide movements. At that time the Viennese style prevailed throughout the Europe. The focus of Vienna skaters was on the demonstration of calligraphic footwork with beautiful clean edges.

Their compulsory figures were too small and with too little momentum. At the Great International Skating Tournament, the first important international competition held in 1882 in Vienna, Norwegian figure skaters with Axel Paulsen attracted general attention, because they showed very unusual special figures and a completely new style of skating in a free skate.

Axel Paulsen has received for a new jump that bears his name, the prize for the best special figure. He finished third behind the Austrian Leopold Frey and Eduard Engelmann in the overall standings. As a result, there was a synthesis between the Viennese School and the Nordic style of figure skating.

Both types merged into modern “international style”. Axel Paulsen was also successful as a speed skater. In 1884 after he had practiced short track turns and trimmed skate length down to 15-inchees, he came to America and won everything in sight. In the 1880´s he was credited with introducing the style of clasping arms behind back in distance event and designing a radically new and lighter skate.

Both Alex and his brother Edwin did many exhibitions in all parts of Europe. He was elected to the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 1976.

A.R. Goodfellow, The Skating Scene, 1981;
M. Hampe, Stilwandel im Eisskunstlauf, 1994;
J.R. Hines, Historical Dictionary of Figure Skating, 2011;
Sheffild/Woodward, The Ice Skating Book,1980.

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