by Liz Leamy
Photos courtesy Amanda Taylor, PSA
(6 July 2012) Back in the day, Christine Haigler Krall was a leading ladies contender on the elite competitive scene. Known for her enormous double jumps, high-energy skating and superior school figures, the Colorado Springs-based coach scored bronze at the 1964 U.S. nationals, was seventh at that year’s Winter Olympics in Innsbruck and was also a two time national silver medalist in 1963 and 1965.
During this time, Krall also served as a major force in the resurrection of U.S. figure skating after the devastating 1961 plane crash that wiped out the entire American World team in Brussels, Belgium and helped transform this faction into one the finest in the world during the latter portion of the contemporary 20th century and first decade of the millenium.
“Christy was loaded with energy,” said Slavka Button, coach of Janet Lynn, the five-time U.S. champion from 1969 to 1973 who now teaches in Westchester, New York and Fairfield County, Connecticut. “She was just so dynamic.”
These days, Krall still manages to play a paramount role in the sport. Reputed to be one of the finest technical coaches in the world, she has gained both domestic and international recognition for her superior Dartfish computer technological expertise.
Over the past few years, Krall has used Dartfish technology to coach many of the sport’s leading contenders on effective jump technique, including her most famous charge, Patrick Chan, the five-time Canadian champion who won two World titles, in 2011 and 2012 respectively, and silver in 2010. (In April 2012, Krall and Chan parted ways under amicable circumstances.)
According to Krall, technology is the only way to go in terms of schooling skaters on jumps these days.
“Today’s world is so advanced and understanding the mechanics of jumps is everything,” said Krall at the Professional Skater’s Association annual conference in Boston this past May. “The ability to be calculated and measure significantly changes an athlete’s development and they trust that development.”
Krall certainly has proven she knows what she is talking about. During her two-year run with Chan, she helped him learn and consistently obtain a textbook-like triple Axel, quad Sow and quad toe, elements that were key in helping him claim two consecutive world titles.
“Christy was the one who made Chan a World Champion,” said Button, who is a PSA Hall of Fame member. “She helped him get his jumps to be both strong and consistent.”
In Boston, Krall divulged her jump technique to a standing-room only crowd at the historic Skating Club of Boston and held their attention from beginning to end as she discussed the key phases of jumping.
“She was just terrific,” said Carol Rossignol, PSA Director of Education and Accreditation. “She was so clear, eloquent and full of energy.”
In her discussion, Krall went over the eight different stages of jumping in relation to the takeoff, air execution and landing on a single, double and triple Axel.
“There are eight places in a jump that are critical masses,” said Krall. “The first and most important point is the moment you step, which I like to call the ‘ten thousand-dollar moment.’”
Krall said the first rule for effective stepping is to stay over the skating side, collect the feet underneath the hip and then proceed into a subtle step rather than push when going forward.
“Skaters should step on top of their body and on top of their core body,” she said. “The balance step over the skating foot is where it’s all written.”
The loading phase, the second part of the takeoff, marks the collection point of the body in which skaters put their left foot (for counterclockwise jumpers, right for clockwise) on the ice, position their hands in front and then drive them back.
In the this phase, skaters ought to press on their ankles, knees and hips, fire their glutes (gluteus maximus muscles) and get everything as close to the body in order to drive it up into the air.
“The muscles we skate with are behind us,” said Krall, adding that she spent hours working on Chan’s posterior chain. “The takeoff is all about the posterior chain, right angles and how you fire the angles.”
In the explosion or third phase, everything is dedicated to pressure and momentum for the skater has to come up right.
“The arms have to go up super close to the body, like you’re curling a weight,” said Krall. “The legs weigh about 12 pounds and the arms four, so you want to think of that and also keep the head to the right as you take off.”
As a skater takes off, everything should be to the right and the explosion has to go right through to the core of the body.
“Alignment is power,” she said, explaining that the skater should have their feet locked down by two-sixthteenths of a second and quads together in two-tenths of a second.
The first gather, or fourth stage of this jump is a gathering of the arms and free leg to the axis, rather than a pulling-in phase.
“Even if you jump high, you still need quickness for the gathering,” she said.
Feet, she said, are the foundation of rotation and during this phase, skaters should lock down their feet and be trim in the air.
“The skater should trim their right arm (for counterclockwise rotation),” said Krall. “Think of Newton’s Law in which an object will stay in motion unless it’s moved in motion.”
The fifth and sixth stages are the second gathering and air position, respectively. During these segments, skaters should have their arms to the core with their hands held higher than their elbows, elbows in front of their core and their shoulders down.
“Keep your head still with everything lined up to the right,” she said.
From there, the skater impacts the ice for the seventh segment and proceeds with a follow-through of the landing for the eighth and final phase.
The key to success in all jumping, explained Krall, is to understand there is always a way to execute a jump.
“There are limits we get caught up on with the harder tricks and we need to realize these elements are attainable,” she said.
Somehow, this philosophy seems to explain much of the reason as to why Krall has achieved so much success over the years.
“In skating, there is almost always a way to figure something out,” she said. “It’s all about understanding how things work.”
Well said, indeed.
Copyright 2012 by George S. Rossano