Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir of the United States compete in the Figure Skating Pairs Short Program (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Casual figure skating viewers, say it with me, “It’s not called a sowcow.” That jump with the funny-sounding name is not an ode to farm animals.

It’s actually called a “salchow,” and it’s named in honor of turn-of-the-century Swedish skater Ulrich Salchow, one of the greatest skaters of his era and the man who invented the now-famous jump.


Just how good was Salchow in his time? He won just about every world championship between 1901 and 1911, and most of the European ones as well. Salchow racked up a total of 10 world titles, and still holds the record as the only man to do so.

He also managed to earn an Olympic medal in a winter sport well before the Winter Olympics even existed. In 1908, figure skating appeared for the first time as an Olympic event at the London Summer Games. Salchow took home the gold, making him the first-ever Olympic men’s figure skating champion.

Here’s Salchow in a video purportedly from 1911, showing him performing his salchow jump, along with other moves. If it doesn’t look particularly impressive compared to today’s modern competitors, think about it this way: 20 years before this video was filmed, international figure skating competitions did not yet exist.

So the next time you think you hear a commentator talking about a “sowcow,” remember the man who gave this famous jump its funny name.

It’s because of him that you got to see American team Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir going for, and coming oh-so-close to landing, a quadruple salchow in today’s pairs free skate.


And just so you know, Salchow isn’t the only person to lend his name to a figure skating jump. There’s also Axel Paulsen of Norway, who created the “axel” jump. You didn’t really think it was “axle” like on a car, did you?