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All About Death Spirals

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Death Spiral

Death Spiral

Photo by David Madison - Getty Images

Death Spiral Definition:

A death spiral is a pair skating move where a man does a back outside pivot and holds a lady's hand. As the man does the pivot, the lady circles the man on a forward or backward, outside or inside edge. As the move is performed, the lady's head is dropped back. The move looks scary since the lady looks as if she is circling around the man on one foot with her body upside down.

Death Spiral History:

The death spiral was first performed by Canadian pairs champions and 1948 Olympic bronze medalists Suzanne Morrow and Wallace Distelmeyer.

The back outside death spiral was the trademark move of Russian pair skating legends Lyudmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov. In fact, they were the ones who made the move famous. They were also the 1964 and 1968 Olympic pair skating champions. Liudmila's head came very close to touching the ice when they did the move. Belousova and Protopopov are also credited for inventing edge variations of the death spiral.

Another Russian, pair skating legend and three time Olympic pair skating champion, Irina Rodnina, was also considered a master at the death spiral.

How To Do a Death Spiral:

A man must be able to do a good back outside pivot in order to do a death spiral. The back outside pivot begins by skating backward on one foot with the free leg extended back. The back outside edge will make a complete circle as the skater continues to reach back with the free leg. Finally, the free toe is placed into the ice. Next, the skater makes a complete back outside circle around the planted toe. Doing a good back outside pivot is not easy.

Full Pivot Is a Must:

To get credit for a death spiral, the man must make the pivot last for a full revolution while the lady maintains the death spiral position.

Types Of Death Spirals:

There are really four different versions of the death spiral, since death spirals can be done on forward or backward outside or inside edges.

  • Forward inside death spiral
  • Back inside death spiral
  • Back outside death spiral
  • Forward outside death spiral

The back outside death spiral is much more difficult than the forward inside death spiral.

Death Spirals Are Fun:

Pair skating teams have trouble with death spirals at first, but once the move is mastered, most pair skaters enjoy doing the move. Although the move looks hard, the skaters may actually be having fun performing a death spiral.

Why Is the Move Called a Death Spiral?:

The name "Death Spiral" came because when the move was originally done, the women's head looked so close to the ice that the death spiral move seemed to almost look death-defying. The rules have changed a bit in recent years. In fact, the lady's head should not touch the ice under recent guidelines, but still, the move looks dangerous, so the name "Death Spiral" remains.

Death Spirals Are Not Really Dangerous:

If the tension in the arms created by the pull between the man and the lady is done correctly, the death spiral move is really quite easy to do. Also, since the lady is already so close to the ice, it is very difficult to get hurt doing the move. Some pair skaters find the death spiral so easy that they say that doing a death spiral is the time in their skating competition programs where they take a breath and relax.

Pivot Spirals Are Easier:

Those new to pair skating sometimes try an easier move called a pivot spiral. In a pivot spiral, the lady performs either a forward or backward spiral around the man as he does a pivot. Like the death spiral, the man holds the lady by the hand and pulls her around in a circle.

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