26. Outside Backward Eight, Factor 1

Depending on how well and confidently you have learned to skate your back rolls you will find this eight either very difficult or just moderately so. At any rate, getting the requisite power and balance at the start to carry you evenly around a full circle will take a bit of practice. Diligent application toward perfect­ing now the technique of the push off and start will pay you dividends for all your skating life and will make the complex backward figures later on much more fun.

The timing of the push off I described for the rolls (Illus. 21) should be practiced as a separate exercise. Draw a cross, repre­senting the long and short axis, on the ice with the heel of your blade (Diagram 4). Now stand and count start after start until you can place your skating foot on the short axis line ex­actly at the cross time after time. Make a game of it. Practice from right to left, too, as a few figures from now you will need a powerful standing start in this direction also. During all the movements of the standing pushoff, keep both feet in your line of vision and make sure that you actually see your skat­ing foot take the ice each time. It's easy to think that you have pivoted sufficiently, only to find that you haven't kept your skat­ing toe turned in and have at the last split second put it down too soon, resulting in a hooked start on the ice.

Try for as little arm movement as possible, so that as your body starts backward along the short axis, your shoulders are already in place along the line of the circle, skating shoulder pressed well back and free arm and shoulder pressed forward, matching the pressure on the free leg and hip. The balance of this start is tricky, and it takes a lot of concentration for a skater to be able to feel whether he is pitched slightly backward ahead of the blade or is truly balanced on the ball of the foot leaning only to the center of the circle (Illus. 27-1). Though eventually you must be able to turn your head over the skating shoulder at once and look inside toward the quarter-circle mark, it is useful at first to practice looking only at the center of each circle as you ride in the number 1 position up to the long axis; in fact, practice holding this first position all the way around a full circle. If you can do this, you'll have few, if any, problems with this eight.

The skating ankle remains bent way forward so that the knee is beyond the point of the toe for the first half-circle. It is a true "sitting" position. As one of my instructors used to say, "Imag­ine you are sitting in a straightbacked, old-fashioned chair— and then someone tipped the chair to one side"—a pretty good description. The skating hip is pressed hard in, and the line of the hips is strongly square. The free thigh should close in over the skating thigh (27-1) as soon as the pushing foot completes the push off and lifts from the ice. The knees should never touch, but you should feel as if your pelvic area is one solid block.

When you change position (27-2) between the half- and three-quarters circle as usual (27-4), you must make certain that the outward rotation of the upper body (27-2, 3) and the backward movement of the free foot does not include the hips. In order to keep them stationary and the pressure on the free hip constantly forward, tighten the buttocks muscles as you pass the free foot back, and feel as if this foot, well turned out, is pointing to the outside of the rink or pond. Never let the free foot curl around behind you or your curve will curl correspondingly.

In order to feel the same angle of lean all the way, I always pass my arms and free foot as close as possible (27-3). From level shoulders during the first half-circle, you will have a definitely lowered skating shoulder in the second position (27-5). Look back down the long axis to your starting point at the half-circle (27-2) and then out to the three-quarters mark before you turn your head around. The head may move quickly on the neck, but the shoulders must rotate slowly. Once turned, look along your free side for the opposite circle and your closing center, but do not commit the common error of dropping your free shoulder down and your head and upper body outside the circle in a misguided effort to watch your lines. Dropping the free shoulder will shift your weight to the back of your skate and cut in your curve. Leaning out will widen the radius and cause you to miss your center.

The real secret of success on this eight is a supple waist. If you stop to analyze the fact that during one half-circle the upper body must be twisted against the rotation of the circle, and during the other half it rotates the other way—all without dis­turbing the lower body or changing the lean—you begin to realize that limberness is of the essence. Twisting exercises off the ice will be very valuable about now.

As you close your circles and bring your feet side by side (27-6, 7), with bent knees for your push off, be sure to start your body lean toward the new circle as you change edge for the push from the IB edge (27-6). This does not mean that you take your weight off your pushing foot; it merely means that changing lean on the pushoff itself will ensure a solid start with the new skating hip well in underneath you (27-8), provided, of course, you do not reach out with the skating foot before you transfer your weight to it. Move only the pushing foot; keep the other one motionless over the short axis on each start, ready to re­ceive your weight (26-7). For the hairline accuracy needed here, it is necessary to look right down at your skates, but if you are on the proper lean, this is only a matter of dropping the eyes straight down. Do not move the arms or the head or the hips on these push offs. Push from a square position on one foot to a square position on the other straight along the short axis. Be­cause it takes a little more space to push backward than forward, diagram centers on the back eights may be a little wider than 2 feet.


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