Midori Ito was the first female figure skater in history to land the demanding skating maneuver known as the triple axel.
Even among the relatively diminutive athletes that comprise the elite of women's figure skating, Ito was small, standing 4 ft 9 in tall (1.44 m). In her competitive career, Ito acquired a reputation as a very athletic skater, capable of prodigious leaps and jump sequences. Ito won the world skating championship in 1989, and she was a leading skater throughout her career. Ito won a silver medal at the 1992 Winter Olympics competition.
The triple axel is regarded as the most difficult jump in women's skating. It is the only jump that is executed from a forward position. The skater is required to make a deep knee bend with one leg, while reaching forward with both the free leg and arms to jump into the air. Once airborne, the skater will bring her arms close to her body and her legs tight together, as the closer the extremities are to the skater's trunk the greater the amount of acceleration the skater can develop with her spin. A properly executed triple axel will produce a rotation of approximately 5 revolutions per second; 3.5 revolutions requires the skater to remain airborne for seven tenths of one second.
The difficulty of the triple axel is confirmed by the fact that only four other women after Ito first performed the jump in 1988 have landed this jump in competition.
In preparation for the rigors of attempting the triple axel, Ito typically practiced for 20 hours per week in the summer months and 30 hours per week in the winter seasons. Ito sustained two fractured ankles in her training during her career and a host of lesser injuries. It is an interesting feature of Ito's career that while she was arguably the greatest athlete among the figure skaters of her era, she was not renowned for her skating artistry. Judges during Ito's competitive career did not appear to value her jumping ability in a fashion that entirely compensated for her perceived lack of artistic presentation.