Quadruple jumps – four revolutions in the air – have become a staple of men’s figure skating in the past few Olympic cycles. Quads, as they’re known, have always been threatening to break into the mainstream of men’s skating, always floating around the peripheral.
Despite the length of time between the first single jump to the first double, and the first double to triple, the amount of quads seen in programs has exponentially increased since the ‘80s and ‘90s.
A brief history of quads at the Olympic Games:
- 1988: Kurt Browning of Canada performs the only quad of the Games, falling on the landing. He finishes eighth.
- 1992: Petr Barna of CZE lands the first successful quad at an Olympics and wins the bronze medal.
- 1998: Russia’s Ilia Kulik wins gold after opening his free skate with a quad.
- 2002: Russians Alexei Yagudin and Yevgeni Plushenko feature quad jumps in combination with triples (jumps completed in succession) to win gold and silver, respectively. Bronze medalist Timothy Goebel from the US becomes the first skater to land three quads in one program.
- 2006: Plushenko wins gold in Torino with one quad in his short program and one in his free skate.
- 2010: Evan Lysacek from the United States wins gold in Vancouver gold without any quads in either of his program. Silver medalist Plushenko cries foul (his short and long programs contain one quad each).
- 2014: Each of the medalists do one quad in their short programs. Gold and silver medalists Yuzuru Hanyu and Patrick Chan, respectively, each have two quads in their free skate and Denis Ten (bronze medalist) features one.
Since Sochi, quads have become even more vital to gold medal-winning power for men’s programs. Spain’s Javier Fernandez was fourth in 2014 with three total quads, but won back-to-back world championship titles in 2015 and 2016. His programs at those championships had four and five quads, respectively.
When Nathan Chen won his first U.S. title in 2017, his short program had two quads and his free skate produced five quads. At the world championships a few weeks later, he finished in sixth place – his short program again had two quads, but that time, his free skate included a record six quads.
Chen is the first skater to land all five quads in competition: loop, toeloop, flip, Salchow, and Lutz. Nobody does a quad Axel (yet), which is four and a half rotations.
A major question looming over the men’s field in PyeongChang remains: How many quads will it take to win Olympic gold?
Can women do quads?
Miki Ando of Japan remains the only ladies skater to perform a quad in competition. She landed a quad Salchow at the 2002 Junior Grand Prix Final. Ando was the world junior champion in 2004, the world champion twice in 2007 and 2011, and her highest finish at an Olympic Games was fifth in 2010.
Kazakhstan’s Elizabet Tursynbaeva has teased audiences with clean quad attempts in practice. She even discussed working on the jump for the Olympic season in an interview following her performance at the 2017 World Championships.
“Right now I’m working on a quad Sal[chow],” Tursynbaeva told correspondent Charlie White, the 2014 Olympic ice dance gold medalist. “I’ll keep working hard to get better for next season.”
Team USA’s Ashley Wagner stayed realistic while explaining the reality of women doing quads in competition during a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session over the summer.
“Hey, here is the thing,” she wrote response to a question asking if women’s quads were possible. “At a certain point physics comes into play with what the human body is capable of doing. I think with the younger women coming up in the sport, triple Axels and quads are definitely something that is on the horizon. We all know what happens when someone matures and physically that just makes it very, very tough on the body, but you see awesome chicks like Mirai Nagasu going for the triple Axel so it is definitely possible!”