American Ilia Malinin wins world junior figure skating title in record rout

Ilia Malinin

Ilia Malinin became the third American man to win a world junior figure skating title in the last six years, routing the field in Tallinn, Estonia, this week.

Malinin, who was second at the senior U.S. Championships in January and left off the three-man Olympic team, totaled 276.11 points with four quadruple jumps in Saturday’s free skate.

The 17-year-old prevailed by 41.8 points over Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Shaidorov, the largest junior men’s margin of victory since the points-based judging system was introduced in 2005. He shattered the record margin of 17.12 points set by Adam Rippon in 2009.

Malinin also shattered the record for margin of victory in any discipline at junior worlds set by Yuna Kim in 2006 (24.19 points).

After Rippon, Americans again claimed the world junior title in 2013 (Josh Farris), 2017 (Vincent Zhou) and 2019 (Tomoki Hiwatashi).

Olympic champion Nathan Chen‘s best finish at junior worlds was third in 2014, though he would have been the favorite in 2016 if he didn’t have to withdraw with an injury.

With Chen and Zhou undecided on competing next season (or at all moving forward), Malinin could soon be the top U.S. man on the senior level.

Malinin entered worlds with the best total score this season of any junior man, according to Russians occupied the second, fourth and fifth spots, but were barred from competing due to the nation’s invasion of Ukraine.

Malinin finished ninth at last month’s senior worlds.

Earlier Saturday, U.S. senior bronze medalist Isabeau Levito topped the women’s short program with 72.50 points in a field lacking the world’s best from Russia.

Levito takes a 3.12-point lead into Sunday’s free skate, looking to become the first American woman to win a world junior or senior title since Rachael Flatt took the junior crown in 2008.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

Kendall Gretsch

Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine

Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”