Inoue, Baldwin land first throw triple axel in Olympic history

Updated: February 11, 2006, 5:33 PM ET
Associated Press

TURIN, Italy -- Rena Inoue makes the most difficult throw in figure skating sound so simple.

"The guy has to track the girl right and throw her right and everything," Inoue said. "It is nothing different from a lot of the throws."

Except that she goes around a history-making 3½ times after partner John Baldwin launches her into the air.

The American pairs champions landed the first throw triple axel in Olympic history Saturday, helping them to a career-high sixth in the short program. Their score of 61.27 also was a personal best.

"It was just the way we wanted it," she said. "It was the way we pictured it. It was a fantastic feeling."

While Inoue makes the jump sound simple, it's anything but. Unlike every other throw jump, she takes off going forward. Then she does the revolutions and lands on a backward outside edge on one foot. It takes guts, skill, strength and, most of all, timing.

But after six years, Inoue and Baldwin -- a couple on and off the ice -- have perfected that.

"You just keep working on it until you get it," Inoue said.

This was the second time Inoue and Baldwin have landed what's now their signature move. They also did it last month at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, the first time it had ever been done in competition.

Though they came to Turin planning to do the throw triple axel in both the short and long programs, they've struggled with it in practice here. It wasn't until their practice Saturday morning that they decided to definitely do the throw.

"Since we've been here we tried about 20 and did about 60 percent. Usually we do about 90," Baldwin said. "We came to our warmup and we had a different attitude. We just relaxed and enjoyed it more."

So did the audience. When Inoue stuck her landing, the crowd roared and Baldwin screamed and pumped his fist.

"I broke the character," Baldwin said. "I showed my emotion for a moment, then I realized we had six more elements to go."

Inoue and Baldwin had a technical score of 35.53 points and earned 25.74 for program components. No other pair tried the move, and it gave Inoue and Baldwin the second-highest technical score of the night.

Only leaders Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin scored better. They had 35.93 technically and a component score of 32.71 for a total of 68.64. China's Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao were second, and Russians Maria Petrova and Alexei Tikhonov third.

The free program is Monday, and Inoue and Baldwin intend to have the throw triple axel in their program again.

"For pairs, it's a big step forward," Marinin said. "For younger skaters, that is the point where they should intend to just start trying it."

This is the third Olympics for Inoue, who skated for Japan in 1992 and '94. Four years after the Lillehammer Games, she was diagnosed with lung cancer -- the same disease that had killed her father 18 months early.

She underwent six months of chemotherapy and has been cancer-free since. She moved to the United States in 1999 and began skating with Baldwin, with whom she's won two pairs titles.

The other American pair, Marcy Hinzmann and Aaron Parchem, were 13th after he fell on a triple toe loop jump.

"It happens sometimes," Hinzmann said.

"Hopefully it won't happen again soon," he added.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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