Rich Moffitt’s photo of Sasha Cohen at Skating Club of Boston's Ice Chips performance in Harvard's skating arena in Allston, MA.
Rich Moffitt’s photo of Sasha Cohen at Skating Club of Boston's Ice Chips performance in Harvard's skating arena in Allston, MA.

Figure Skating Physics, with Olympic Medalist Sasha Cohen

Sasha Cohen at Skating Club of Boston's Ice Chips performance in Harvard's skating arena in Allston, MA. Credit: Rich Moffitt (originally posted to Flickr as Opening pose) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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About This Episode

Are you as excited about Winter Olympics as we are? Gary O’Reilly and Chuck Nice kick off our series of episodes about Olympic sports with the physics of the most watched event every four years: figure skating. Sports physicist John Eric Goff is back, along with figure skating analyst and host of the Ice Talk podcast Jackie Wong, and Olympic silver medalist and 3x World Championship medalist Sasha Cohen. Join us as we dissect the physics of a double toe loop, from the conservation of angular momentum and the frictional torque of the ice, to the importance of repositioning mass to increase speed. (Prof. Goff even explains how you can demonstrate this process at home using a couple of books and a swivel chair.) Investigate the mechanics of a quadruple jump, which requires enough force to allow a skater to launch off the ice at 10-11mph and elevate the skater 3-4 feet off the ice to provide up to a full second of hang time – comparable to the best NBA players – enough to spin 4 times per second, or about half the rotation rate of a spiral football pass. You’ll learn about skate blade technology and whether there’s a sweet spot on a figure skate. You’ll hear about the hardest jump currently being executed, the quadruple Lutz, and where the best of the best are starting to go: the quintuple jump, which would require skaters to function at the furthest extremes of human ability in order to rotate 5 times per second in mid air. You’ll find out why most figure skaters prefer to skate on “soft” ice, why “the rocker is where you want to be” when you’re spinning, and why “a little traveling” is never good in competition. Finally, you’ll get the skater’s perspective from Sasha Cohen, the fan favorite Hall of Fame skater who is beloved for her flexibility and her presentation. Sasha shares the grueling training schedule she followed every day for 15 years, and talks about the energy she gets from her wonderful connection with her fans, who watched her grow up on the ice. She also explains how she feels the physics of her sport at a kinesthetic level, and how quad jumps are entirely different than anything else she does on the ice.

In This Episode

  • Host

    Gary O'Reilly

    Gary O'Reilly
    Sports Analyst, Broadcaster, Professional Soccer Player
  • Host

    Chuck Nice

    Chuck Nice
    Comedian
  • Guest

    Sasha Cohen
    Olympic silver medalist & 3x World Championship medalist
  • Guest

    Jackie Wong
    Figure skating analyst & host of "Ice Talk" podcast
  • Guest

    John Eric Goff

    John Eric Goff, Ph.D.
    Physicist, Martial Artist & Author of “Gold Medal Physics: The Science of Sports”, forthcoming book: "The Science Behind Krav Maga"

Episode Topics