Four revolution jumps... to skaters back in Ulrich Salchow and Gillis Grafström's days, they wouldn't have wouldn't have even been comprehensible. However, as we all know, under the current IJS system they're the name of the game. From Dick Button performing the first triple jump to Frances Dafoe and Norris Bowden's introduction of the first twist lift, overhead lasso lift and throw jump to the majestic video of David Jenkins doing a gorgeous triple Axel in 1957, figure skating history is of course full of technical innovations and the history of the evolution of quadruple jumps is really quite a fascinating story.
Back in the late seventies and early eighties, a small circle of American skaters took the plunge at attempting quadruple jumps. Robert Wagenhoffer was landing them in practice and Mark Cockerell was attempting them in competition, but the first quad attempts in major international competitions didn't come until 1983, when the Soviet Union's Alexandr Fadeev went for the gusto at the World Championships in Helsinki, Finland.
Controversy persists to this day as to when the first quad jump was actually landed in international competition. Officially, the ISU recognizes Kurt Browning's quadruple toe-loop at the 1988 World Championships as the first. However, the March 26, 1988 edition of The Bangor Daily News notes that "[Jozef] Sabovcik was believed to have landed one at the 1986 European Championships. But a review of the tapes revealed that he grazed the ice on his free leg and the jump was disallowed." In a December 2008 interview on The Manleywoman SkateCast, Sabovcik explained, "I know what I did, and Kurt and I, people thought we were at each other's throats about this, but Kurt’s a really good friend of mine. I respect him as a skater and I think he respects me as a skater. I did what I did, and mine wasn’t by any means perfect, but neither was his. The ISU makes their decisions and that's how it is. They usually don't go back on anything they rule. Scott Hamilton told me, he was there, they made a video that showed the landing from a certain angle, and when he heard the ruling, he offered them the tape from, I think it was, ABC, and [the ISU] simply refused it because they had made their ruling." In his 1991 book "Kurt: Forcing The Edge", Kurt Browning talked with candor about his own historic accomplishment: "I'd been landing quads in practice for a couple of years. I'd landed them in Cincinnati and tried them here and there, whenever I felt the chance existed. Other people were landing them too. But there are two important distinctions that put my name into skating history. I was the first to land a quad perfectly and cleanly - landing on one foot, not two - at a recognized, sanctioned skating event. Not fooling around in practice, not on springy ice, not on a pond in the middle of nowhere without a battery of judges around. That is why my name is in the Guinness Book Of World Records. I was the first to do it. I won't be the last. Let's be clear about this. Skating folklore is rich with jumps that never happened, real fish stories. According to legend, there have been quad Salchows and fantastic combination leaps. Perhaps people were landing quads in some manner in the 1940s, because that's when the rumors began to circulate. [Sabovcik]'s one of the most exciting jumpers I've ever seen. Boitano did a perfect quad in practice in St. Gervais. I've seen Orser do them. But I was the first to hit one when it counted."
The first attempt of a quad jump in combination came in 1991, when Michael Chack tackled a one-foot Axel/quad Salchow combination at the U.S. Championships, two footing the landing of the second jump. In his 2014 Skate Guard interview, Chack said "as far as my quad, I just loved jumping and trying different things and pushing skating limits." Weeks later, Elvis Stojko landed the first quad combination at the 1991 World Championships - a clean quad toe/double toe. The following year at the Albertville Olympics, Petr Barna landed the first quad jump, a toe-loop, in Olympic competition.
The real question as we look back on the history of quads in figure skating isn't the past but the future. In February 2014, "Scientific American" published a fantastic article about the possibility of quintuple jumps. In the piece, University Of Delaware biomechanist James Richards is quoted as saying that "the quad is the physical limit. To do a quint, we would have to have somebody built like a pencil, and they can't get much smaller than they already are." Scientists say a lot of things. I don't know about you, but I'm not ready to discount quints just yet. Figure skating is really 'figure jumping' these days and with the progress that's being made on the technical side every day and new coaching technology, I choose to just sit back, be amazed and sincerely hope nobody gets hurt.
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