The bottom of a skating blade is not flat, but hollow ground with a concave middle part. When the skater stands upright both edges rest on the ice, but when he leans to the right one edge leaves the ice so that he is balanced on the outside edge on the right foot and the inside edge on the left. When he leans to the left he rests on the left outside edge and the right inside edge.
The very first jump that any skater learns, the three jump, uses the same take-off and landing edges as the axe! The skater takes off from the outside edge of one foot; going forwards, and lands backwards on the other foot on an outside edge, having turned 180Degrees. The axe! involves turning one-and-a-half times in the air, through 540 Degrees. It was first introduced by the Norwegian, Axel Paulsen, in the nineteenth century, but he did a very primitive version of the beautiful, soaring move seen today. At the zenith of her competitive career the highlight of Sonja Henie routine was two axels in a row. She would wind herself up like a corkscrew, signaling that the move was to come. This is now deemed bad form. She did not get very far off the ice, either. Today, skaters jump so high that the rotation is relatively easy. The height of Robin Cousins jumps never fails to draw gasps of admiration, particularly the tuck and delayed axels. In the tuck axe! the legs are brought up to the body, accentuating the skater's height above the ice. In the delayed axe! The rotation is held off until the last moment.
Dick Button, the 1948 and 1952 Olympic gold-medal winner who brought in the flying came! and was the first person to accomplish a triple jump, was responsible for introducing the double axel. To accomplish this, the skater turns two-and-a-half times, or 900 Degrees, in the air. Peggy Fleming produced a further refinement, a move few others have been able to repeat. Her specialty was to take off for a double axel from an outside spreadeagle position (both feet on the ice, one pointing forwards and the other backwards) and immediately resume it on landing. However, when she won the gold medal in the 1968 Olympic Games in Grenoble she reduced the difficulty of this move, choosing to execute a single rather than a double axe!.
The first person to do a triple axel in a World Championship was Vern Taylor of Canada, in 1978. Brian Orser, also a Canadian, presented a much smoother version of the jump with its three-and-a-half turns -that's 1260 Degrees in his first appearance in a World Championship in 1981.