Double Axel or Nothing - Guest Post from Anita Saxena


I’ve been a competitive figure skater for over three decades and a figure skating instructor for twenty-five years. I’ve had the privilege of watching young skaters grow up in the sport and see them become adults. I admit, it does make me sometimes feel old. And yet it’s always touching to receive a graduation invitation or holiday card from a current or former student. I love seeing our skaters thrive and flourish.


Over the years I’ve witnessed many competitive female figure skaters struggle at a pivotal phase in their career—learning the double axel jump. This is the hardest double jump. A skater takes off forward, rocks off their toe pick, and lands backwards after completing almost two and a half revolutions in the air.


When Katarina Witt won Olympic Gold medals in 1984 and 1988, she did so by doing a double axel along with other triple and double jumps in her program. Our sport has evolved so much over the decades with better training techniques, injury prevention and rehabilitation, and improved technology in equipment. This has also caused the sport’s expectations of our athletes to also increase at earlier and earlier ages. These days young ladies at what we call the senior level (Olympic level) are doing triple axels and quadruple jumps. Most of them aren’t even 18.


I’ve observed many young teenagers mentally and emotionally beat themselves up because they get stuck on the double axel jump. They lose sight of all the other amazing things they can do on the ice, their relationships with family and friends, and sadly their self-worth. My debut, middle grade novel, Double Axel or Nothing, was inspired by those skaters I’ve watched struggle over the years.


I wanted to write a book that athletes in any sport could relate to. The main character of Double Axel or Nothing, Ruby Rani, has a coach who is realistic with her expectations and encouraging. She sees Ruby Rani’s potential, but also sees how her negative self-talk is the real reason she’s unable to successfully land a double axel. All athletes deserve a coach who sees the best in them. Someone who will be supportive of their growth as an athlete and an individual outside their sport, but can also demonstrate tough love and provide structure when the athlete needs it.


Double Axel or Nothing shows how having a different training approach, sports psychology, and the support of family and friends can make the journey of achieving a goal a positive one for an athlete. Does Ruby Rani land a double axel? You’ll have to read to find out.


Double Axel or Nothing is available as paperback or eBook wherever you like to buy books or you can request it at your local library. Consider supporting an independent bookstore as they are important community hubs. Click this link to find Double Axel or Nothing at an independent bookstore near you.

Anita Saxena lives in Alabama with her husband and three cats. When she’s not on the ice, she writes middle grade and young adult fiction, and is also an optometrist. Anita also enjoys playing and teaching piano. She loves hiking when the weather is mild and going to the beach for undisturbed reading time. Anita also happens to be a connoisseur of hot tea and popsicles. After graduating from the University of Alabama at Birmingham with University Honors in Philosophy and a minor in Chemistry, she then went on to receive her Doctorate of Optometry from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry.

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