Ilia Malinin made history on Wednesday night when the 17-year-old prodigy, and heir to Olympic champion Nathan Chen among American figure skaters, managed to land the first quad axel in competition. (Watch the video below.)
Malinin landed the four-and-a-half-revolution jump while winning the lower-tier American Classic in Lake Placid, New York, in front of a small crowd in a near-empty arena. It nevertheless sent shockwaves through the sport as the last and toughest of the quadruple jumps was finally conquered.
“It was really good. When I’m training, it’s pretty easy for me to figure out how to get the timing right and everything to make it a good attempt,” said Malinin, whose supreme confidence in his jumping ability is evidenced by the use of ‘quadg0d’ on its social media platforms. “To do it in competition is a different story because you have nerves and pressure that may prevent you from doing it. So I have to treat it like I’m at home and I feel pretty good.
Chen, who for now has stepped away from the sport after his triumph at the Beijing Olympics, has played with the jump in training. And double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu failed to land it at the Winter Games.
But there had been brief snippets of video Malinin had posted on social media over the past six months indicating it was a work in progress. There were reports from his training camp that he had landed the quad axel in practice.
What makes the axel more difficult than the other quads – the flip, the toe flip, the lutz, the salchow, the loops and the toe loop – is that the skaters face forward when entering the jump, forcing them to perform an additional half revolution. Even the triple axel is difficult enough that most women and many men struggle to do it correctly.
“I had an idea to try it for a little while now. It was in March or April that I really started working on the technique and trying to improve it,” Malinin said. “(Hanyu ) definitely inspired me to try it here.”
Malinin put the jump first in his free skate, set to Labrinth’s “Euphoria” and choreographed by Shae-Lynn Bourne, when he knew it would be the freshest. The base value of 12.50 is higher than any other jump, and the 1.00 Malinin received in the jury’s execution score indicated he considered it clean.
“It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen on the ice,” said Adam Rippon, a member of the 2018 Olympic team.
Malinin scored 185.44 points for her free program and 257.28 points overall to win the competition. Kevin Aymoz of France was second at 236.17 while Malinin’s American teammate Camden Pulkinen was third at 219.49.
Malinin was born in Virginia to Russian-born Uzbek skaters Tatiana Malinina and Roman Skorniakov. He has been considered for years as the next star of American figure skating. He won junior Grands Prix in France and Austria, as well as the world championship last year, and finished second to Chen at the US championships.
In most Olympic years, that would have made him a lock on the team. But USA figure skating officials use a series of factors to make their decision, and they skirted it in favor of adding Vincent Zhou and Jason Brown.