Commanding the ice again after recent downfall, Ilia Malinin wins world junior gold in runaway

ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships - Tallinn
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When you pick “quadg0d,” for an Instagram handle, the hubris factor comes into play.

It did for Ilia Malinin in the free skate at last month’s World Championships, when the skating gods reminded him that ice is slippery for mortals trying to navigate it divinely on thin blades.

So Malinin found himself reassured to get back on solid footing as he won the World Junior Championships in a runaway Saturday in Tallinn, Estonia.

“I am relieved that I finished the season really, really good,” Malinin said.

He did it with junior record scores in the short program (88.99), free skate (187.12) and total (276.11), beating silver medalist Mikhail Shaidorov of Kazakhstan by 41.80 points. That was more than twice the previous largest winning margin, 19.12, by Adam Rippon of the U.S. in 2009.

And Malinin did it with four fully rotated quadruple jumps, reprising his dazzling free skate at the U.S. Championships, when his silver medal performance led to controversy after he was not selected for the Olympic team.

U.S. Figure Skating’s omission of Malinin, justified under the criteria in place, seemed further validated when he came undone in the free at the World Championships in Montpellier, France, last month, tumbling from fourth after the short to ninth in the final standings.

“It was a bit shocking,” Malinin said

While it is impossible to use his performances at either the senior worlds or junior worlds as an ex post facto measuring stick for how Malinin might have done at the Olympics, his skating Saturday indicated that what he did at nationals was not a one-off.

“I have started working on consistency and trying to skate clean in every competition,” Malinin said.

He had just one minor blip in Tallinn, a scratchy landing on a quad lutz in the free that drew his only negative grade of execution (-.82) in either program. He could have won easily with a less demanding free but laid a building block for next season with the four quads.

“We decided to stick with the plan that was our original plan from the beginning of the season,” Malinin said. “We intended that if I started doing well with four quads, next season I could add more.”

Even with one fewer scoring element than in a senior free skate, Malinin’s technical score (104.34) Saturday was higher than those of all but three other skaters this season – the Olympic medalists, Nathan Chen of the U.S. and Yuma Kagiyama and Shoma Uno of Japan.

Malinin, 18, of Vienna, Virginia, became the third U.S. man to win the world junior title in the last five championships, joining Tomoki Hiwatashi (2019) and Vincent Zhou (2017). Last year’s junior worlds was cancelled because of the pandemic.

He heads into his first full senior season as the leader among U.S. men, since Chen, Zhou and Jason Brown seem unlikely to compete next season.

“This (performance) definitely gives me a lot of boost and motivation,” he said.

Meanwhile, more than four months since her previous competition this season, Isabeau Levito of the U.S. picked up right where she left off.

That prior event was the U.S. Championships, where she was second in the free skate and third overall in her first senior nationals.

Even with a one-point time deduction, Levito actually topped her nationals’ score by exactly a point with a career best 72.50 to win Saturday’s short program by 3.12 over Jia Shin of South Korea.

The long gap between events owed to the Covid-forced postponement and relocation of this world juniors, which was to have been held in Bulgaria five weeks ago.

Levito, who turned 15 in early March, felt the delay worked both ways for her.

“It was good for training my jumps and programs to be better,” Levito said. “It was definitely a little harder for me to have it be postponed. I was ready for it to happen a little sooner.”

Levito won the short through the refined quality of her spins and step sequences to Camille Saint-Saens’ “The Swan,” earning four maximum grades of execution (+5) and 17 grades of +4 for those elements. The balletic feeling of several moments was striking, and she had an advantage of more than two points in component scores.

Another South Korean, Ahsun Yun, was third (66.28), a whisker ahead of Lindsay Thorngren of the U.S. (66.14).

In the absence of Russian skaters, barred indefinitely from International Skating Union events as a sanction for their country’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, Levito is in good position to become the first U.S. woman to win junior worlds since Rachael Flatt in 2008.

Russian women have won the past four world junior titles, nine of the last 10 and also seven silver medals in that span. They would have been favored again this season.

“I think they are very great skaters, and they inspire a lot of athletes and push the sport forward and push everyone to try a little harder,” Levito said to a question of whether it felt strange not to be competing against them.

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at every Winter Olympics since 1980, is a special contributor to

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2023 French Open women’s singles draw, scores

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At the French Open, Iga Swiatek of Poland eyes a third title at Roland Garros and a fourth Grand Slam singles crown overall.

The tournament airs live on NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel through championship points in Paris.

Swiatek, the No. 1 seed from Poland, can join Serena Williams and Justine Henin as the lone women to win three or more French Opens since 2000.

Turning 22 during the tournament, she can become the youngest woman to win three French Opens since Monica Seles in 1992 and the youngest woman to win four Slams overall since Williams in 2002.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Men’s Draw

But Swiatek is not as dominant as in 2022, when she went 16-0 in the spring clay season during an overall 37-match win streak.

She retired from her most recent match with a right thigh injury last week and said it wasn’t serious. Before that, she lost the final of another clay-court tournament to Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.

Sabalenka, the No. 2 seed, and Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, the No. 4 seed and Wimbledon champion, are the top challengers in Paris.

No. 3 Jessica Pegula and No. 6 Coco Gauff, runner-up to Swiatek last year, are the best hopes to become the first American to win a Grand Slam singles title since Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major drought is the longest for U.S. women since Seles won the 1996 Australian Open.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

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2023 French Open Women’s Singles Draw

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2023 French Open men’s singles draw, scores

French Open Men's Draw
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The French Open men’s singles draw is missing injured 14-time champion Rafael Nadal for the first time since 2004, leaving the Coupe des Mousquetaires ripe for the taking.

The tournament airs live on NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel through championship points in Paris.

Novak Djokovic is not only bidding for a third crown at Roland Garros, but also to lift a 23rd Grand Slam singles trophy to break his tie with Nadal for the most in men’s history.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Women’s Draw

But the No. 1 seed is Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who won last year’s U.S. Open to become, at 19, the youngest man to win a major since Nadal’s first French Open title in 2005.

Now Alcaraz looks to become the second-youngest man to win at Roland Garros since 1989, after Nadal of course.

Alcaraz missed the Australian Open in January due to a right leg injury, but since went 30-3 with four titles. Notably, he has not faced Djokovic this year. They could meet in the semifinals.

Russian Daniil Medvedev, who lost in the French Open first round in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, is improved on clay. He won the Italian Open, the last top-level clay event before the French Open, and is the No. 2 seed ahead of Djokovic.

No. 9 Taylor Fritz, No. 12 Frances Tiafoe and No. 16 Tommy Paul are the highest-seeded Americans, all looking to become the first U.S. man to make the French Open quarterfinals since Andre Agassi in 2003. Since then, five different American men combined to make the fourth round on eight occasions.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

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2023 French Open Men’s Singles Draw

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