Let's Talk Toe-Loop's!

Legendary skaters like Ulrich Salchow and Axel Paulsen live on in the skating lexicon through the jumps which bear their names. Alois Lutz, an obscure Viennese skater who only ever competed in junior events in Austria, lives on with his namesake leap. His much more successful German neighbour, Werner Rittberger, invented the Rittberger jump, known outside of Europe as the loop. The flip and toe-loop share more in common than their backwards toe-pick takeoff. They are the only two major jumps who aren't named after their inventors. Today's Skate Guard blog will take a look at why that may be.

I think it goes without saying that in the early twentieth century, figure skating didn't have the same obsession with jumping as it does today. A successful skater possessed a strong mastery of the school figures and in free skating aspired only to present a charming program peppered with novel moves - a toe-pirouette here, a special figure there, maybe a spiral, pose or small jump to accentuate a highlight in the rinkside orchestra's music. Jumps were by and large experiments.

Photo courtesy "The Art Of Skating" by Irving Brokaw

One such 'experiment' that started popping up in programs in the Edwardian era was the (unattributed) Spectacle or Brillen jump, which Irving Brokaw described in his 1913 book "The Art Of Skating". The Brillen jump took off from a back outside edge with a toe-pick assist, with the skater landing on the left back outside edge. At the time, the Axel and loop were perhaps the most popular jumps and the Brillen never quite took off. 

One man who has been credited with the invention of the toe-loop is Bruce Mapes, a talented professional skater married to the famous ice show star Evelyn Chandler. It's important to bear in mind that in the era of Prohibition and the Great Depression - when Mapes would have likely been including the jump in show numbers - skaters relied on letters, telegrams and word of mouth to communicate innovations in the sport. They didn't have smartphones they could post their new tricks on Instagram with. It's certainly possible that another skater in another part of the world was working on the same jump at the same time he was.

Top: A mention from "The Philadelphia Inquirer" of Jane Vaughn performing a 'toe spin loop' jump at a competition sponsored by the Philadelphia Skating Club and Humane Society in 1936. Bottom: Clipping from the December 5, 1940 issue of "The Boston Globe", referencing Belita Jepson-Turner performing a toe-loop in an Ice Capades performance.

Going back through primary sources, you really don't see mentions of the term 'toe-loop' until the early forties. Skating coach Clarence Hislop described the jump, in a collection of more obscure jumps like the Bowhill and Back Inside Choctaw Jump, in an article that appeared in "Skating" magazine in December of 1943. However, he didn't credit its invention to anyone. 

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

Three years earlier in her book "Advanced Figure Skating", Maribel Vinson Owen termed the leap simply 'outside back toe-point jump'. She wrote, "Some of the most breath-taking jumps I have ever seen have been simple ones done superbly well. [An] excellent example... is my husband's OB toe-point jump, an elementary jump which is one of the first every beginner learns. Yet Guy [Owen] removes it from the beginner's class by rising it sometimes as high as three feet off the ice and hanging suspended in mid-air for several seconds." 

Roller skaters called the jump the Mapes and it enjoyed far more popularity on rollers in its infancy than on the ice. In fact, many skating textbooks published in the fifties talk about double Salchow, loop, flip, Lutz and Axel jumps but omit the toe-loop entirely. In Canada, it was for many years called a cherry flip; in Germany the Tipp-Rittberger. Others still called it a tap-loop, toe spin loop or a Charlie.

Clipping from the February 18, 1963 issue of "The Calgary Albertan", referencing Tommy Litz's triple toe-loop at the North American Championships

When Donald Jackson won the World Championships in 1962, a double toe-loop he performed late in his program was a mere embellishment to the effortless triple Lutz and triple Salchow he'd already performed. Hershey, Pennsylvania's Tommy Litz brought the toe-loop to center stage the following year, landing a triple in his free skating performance at the 1963 U.S. Championships in California. The handwritten notes of British journalist Dennis L. Bird confirm that Litz was the first skater to land a triple toe-loop at the Winter Olympics, in 1964. He also landed the jump at the 1964 World Championships in Dortmund.

Tommy Litz

In the decade that followed, the triple toe-loop seemed to catch on like wildfire. In 1966, David McGillvray landed the jump in the junior men's event at the Canadian Championships. The following year, he landed it in the senior men's event, but finished fourth overall. The next two Olympic Gold Medallists, Austria's Wolfgang Schwarz and Czechoslovakia's Ondrej Nepela, had the triple toe-loop in their arsenal, as did Tim Wood, the Olympic Silver Medallist in 1968 and World Champion in 1969 and 1970. At the 1976 Canadian Championships, Canada's Ron Shaver opened his program with a rare feat - a sequence of three triple toe-loops in a row.

Clipping from the February 8, 1969 issue of "The Oakland Californian" referencing Tina Noyes' triple toe-loop at the controversial 1969 North American Championships

The first woman to (unsuccessfully) attempt a triple toe-loop at the World Championships was Christine Errath in 1974. By the 1976 season, a small handful of women, including Errath, Dianne de Leeuw and Elena Vodorezova, were having success with the jump in competition. The first woman to include a triple toe-loop in her winning program at the World Championships was Linda Fratianne in 1977. She wasn't the first American woman to attempt the triple toe-loop though - Tina Noyes, Janet Lynn and Melissa Militano all had the jump in their repertoires.

Elaine Zayak performing in 1982

As triple toe-loop's became 'a thing' in the late sixties and early seventies, there came to be a decidedly American preoccupation with the the toe-loop and its variation, the toe-Walley. The difference, one was told, was in the entrance and that the toe-Walley took off from an inside edge, not an outside one. This became a talking point when Elaine Zayak won the 1982 World Championships with six triple jumps - all toe-loop's, Salchows and toe-Walley's - and the infamous 'Zayak rule' came into play. In "Tracings" magazine in 1983, Alexandra Stevenson wrote, "There may be quite a controversy over triple toe-Walley's this year. For a right-footed jumper, a toe-Walley is a jump from a right inside edge and the left toe, turning counter-clockwise. The trouble is that after the approach, a left three turn, almost no one steps onto the inside edge. They step onto the outside edge. That makes the jump a toe-loop jump. The new regulations state that a triple jump cannot be repeated except that one triple can be repeated in combination. At Skate America, Cynthia Coull of Canada did a triple toe-loop, a triple toe-loop in combination and a triple toe-Walley. How can the judges tell if it's a true triple toe-Walley? Most skaters are playing it safe and not trying it. Cynthia's coach, Kerry Leitch, says he has talked to many judges who say the toe-Walley can be accepted as a separate triple, but I know of many who won't. It will be interesting to see what this quarrel brings up internationally." The fact that slow-mo replay was not something that ISU judges had access to under the 6.0 system is something definitely worth considering.

Clipping from the March 26, 1963 issue of the "Edmonton Journal" referencing Kurt Browning's quadruple toe-loop at the 1988 World Championships

Later in the eighties, there was more toe-loop controversy. Jozef Sabovčík's historic first quadruple toe-loop was ratified, then wasn't, and Kurt Browning was credited as the first man to officially land the jump two years later. Sabovčík had his redemption in 1995, when he made history as the first skater to land the jump in professional competition at the Men's Outdoor Championships in Sun Valley. Thanks largely to Elvis Stojko, quadruple toe-loop's became the name of the game by the late nineties and in 2018, Alexandra Trusova was credited by the ISU as the first woman to land the jump in an ISU Championship.

Though the base value for a triple toe-loop under the IJS system is currently only a 4.20, the complex history of the toe-loop jump really deserves a 6.0.


Only jumps receiving a 0 or positive GOE were considered when compiling this data.


Olympic Games

World Championships

European Championships

Four Continents Championships

Triple toe-loop (men's)

Jeffrey Buttle, Sergei Davydov, Anton Kovalevski, Stefan Lindemann, Evan Lysacek, Viktor Pfeifer, Evgeni Plushenko, Emanuel Sandhu, Matt Savoie, Shawn Sawyer, Zoltán Tóth, Kevin van der Perren, Tomáš Verner, Johnny Weir, Min Zhang (2006, short program)

Kristoffer Berntsson, Gheorghe Chiper, Samuel Contesti, Yon Garcia, Brian Joubert, Maciej Kuś, Stéphane Lambiel, Viktor Pfeifer, Roman Serov, Silvio Smalun, Kevin van der Perren, Min Zhang (2005, Qualifying Group B)

Gheorghe Chiper, Andrei Griazev, John Hamer, Stéphane Lambiel, Viktor Pfeifer, Roman Serov, Kevin van der Perren (2005, short program)

Sean Carlow, Gareth Echardt, Ben Ferreira, Kazumi Kishimoto, Chengjiang Li, Justin Pietersen, Matt Savoie, Shawn Sawyer, Daisuke Takahashi, Min Zhang (2005, short program)

Triple toe-loop (women's)

Silvia Fontana, Tuğba Karademir, Fleur Maxwell (2006, short program)

Miki Ando, Joanne Carter, Sasha Cohen, Idora Hegel, Lina Johansson, Yan Liu, Susanna Pöykiö, Joannie Rochette, Júlia Sebestyén (2005, Qualifying Group B)

Candice Didier, Laura Fernández, Carolina Kostner, Lina Johansson, Karen Venhuizen (2005, short program)

Amber Corwin, Na Hou, Yukari Nakano (2005, short program)

Quadruple toe-loop (men's)

Evgeni Plushenko, Emanuel Sandhu, Min Zhang (2006, short program)

Stéphane Lambiel, Min Zhang (2005, Qualifying Group B)

Brian Joubert, Stéphane Lambiel (2005, short program)

Chengjiang Li, Daisuke Takahashi, Min Zhang (2005, short program)

Quadruple toe-loop (women's)

Kamila Valieva (2022, team event free skate)


Alexandra Trusova (2020, free skate)


Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.