Higuchi Wakaba joins historic list by landing triple Axel on Olympic ice

The Japanese figure skater is just the fifth woman to complete the jump at an Olympic Winter Games. You Young landed hers as well, but the jump was downgraded.

By Nick McCarvel
Picture by Justin Setterfield

Japanese figure skater Higuchi Wakaba joined an elite group at the Olympics on Tuesday (15 February).

The 21-year-old, who is making her Olympic debut at Beijing 2022, landed a clean triple Axel in her short program on Tuesday night (15 February), making her just the fifth woman in Olympic history to do so.

She sits in fifth place after the short program.

"The (triple) Axel was good," she said in Japanese, before adding: "Whenever I land the Axel, I kind of surprise myself. I could hear the crowd afterward, but my goal for the season is to finish the rest of the program, which I think I managed to do OK."

Higuchi is the third Japanese woman and fifth overall to land the jump at a Winter Games. Her countrywoman Ito Midori was the first (Lillehammer 1992), followed by another Japanese skater in Asada Mao (2010 and 2014).

American Mirai Nagasu was the lone skater to land one at PyeongChang 2018, while ROC's Kamila Valieva landed one in the team event last week in Beijing.

Higuchi was the only one out of six women to succeed in landing the jump on the night.

Valieva stepped out of her attempt and needed a hand down on the ice to hold her up, while Lausanne 2020 Youth Olympic Games champion You Young landed hers, but the jump was later downgraded by the technical panel, meaning she does not get credited for completing a fully rotated triple Axel.

Each of Alexandra Trusova, Kawabe Mana and Anastasiia Shabotova fell on their triple Axel attempts.

"I know that the Axel was not clean, but I'm very happy with it," said 17-year-old You. "I'm going to be more comfortable [with it] in the free skate."

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