Ulrich Salchow was a notable contributor to the sport of figure skating. His name has been preserved in modern times through the skating jump that bears his name, the Salchow, a standard maneuver that forms part of the repertoire of every competitive figure skater.
Salchow won a total of 10 world championships in his long skating career; he was runner-up on three other occasions. Salchow also captured the gold medal for figure skating in the 1908 Summer Olympics (figure skating was then a summer competition as the first Winter Olympics was not held until 1924). After his retirement from the competitive arena, Salchow was a key figure in the rise of the International Skating Union (ISU), acting as the president of the ISU from 1925–1937. Salchow is one of the most successful athletes in the history of Sweden.
The Salchow jump was first performed by Ulrich Salchow in 1909. It represented a remarkable athletic technique for the time, as it requires the skater to take off into the jump from the back inside edge of one skate, landing on the back inside edge of the opposite skate. The skater uses the free leg (the leg not involved in the take off into the jump) in a wide, sweeping motion, to provide the rotation to carry the skater's body through the air. If the skater is able to generate both sufficient lift and a powerful free leg rotation, he or she can execute a multiple number of rotations in the air prior to landing on the opposite foot. The various jumps are therefore classed as a single, double, or triple Salchow, depending upon how many rotations are performed. A quadruple Salchow has been successfully completed on only a very few occasions in competition.
The Salchow is one of the first jumps that an aspiring figure skater learns to perform, in part because the footwork necessary to execute the Salchow takes the skater naturally into other defined skating maneuvers. The judging in figure skating is based in part on purely subjective considerations, and in part on international standards for jumps such as the Salchow. Despite efforts by skaters to use the Salchow as a two-footed take-off jump, the ISU has remained true to the original Salchow, and skaters are carefully scrutinized in competition to ensure that the Salchow is performed with a one-footed takeoff, regardless of how many rotations that the skater seeks to include before landing.