Ilia Malinin lands first quadruple Axel in figure skating history

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Ilia Malinin landed the first clean, fully rotated quadruple Axel in figure skating competition history to win the U.S. International Classic in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Wednesday night.

Malinin, the 17-year-old world junior champion from Virginia, opened his free skate to “Euphoria” by Labrinth with a quad Axel, the last remaining quadruple jump that had yet to be landed clean by any skater in competition.

“It felt really good,” Malinin said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “When I’m practicing it, it’s pretty easy for me to figure out how to get the right timing and everything to have it be a good attempt. To do it in competition is a different story because you have nerves and pressure that can get in the way of that. So I have to treat it like I’m at home, and it feels pretty good.”

The jump received a full base value of 12.50 points (the most awarded for any of the six quad jumps, as it is the hardest, requiring an extra half-revolution) plus a 1.00 grade of execution from a judges panel. A jump with a positive grade of execution is considered clean.

“This is the CRAZIEST thing I’ve ever seen anyone do on the ice,” 2018 Olympian Adam Rippon tweeted. “ILIA BOY WONDER!!!”

Malinin, whose parents competed at the Olympics for Uzbekistan, landed four quads overall in his free skate, plus a triple Lutz-triple Axel combination, which has rarely, if ever, been done to rise from sixth place after Tuesday’s short program to win his season debut, despite three falls between two programs.

The top-level Grand Prix Series opens next month with Skate America, where Malinin faces Olympic and world silver medalist Yuma Kagiyama of Japan in the absence of Olympic champion Nathan Chen. Chen is on an indefinite and perhaps permanent break from competition.

Chen never attempted a quad Axel in competition. Few men have.

Malinin previously landed what appeared to be a clean quad Axel at a U.S. Figure Skating camp in May. Before that, the jumping master with the Instagram handle @quadg0d posted training video of a quad Axel without a clean landing.

“I had an idea for trying it for a little while now,” Malinin said Wednesday, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “March or April was when I really started to work on the technique and try to improve it.”

Malinin took silver at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in January, hitting five clean quads (three different types) between two programs. He was passed over for the three-man Olympic team because of his lack of senior experience.

Then at junior worlds in April, he attempted four quads in his free skate, landing three clean.

Other skaters previously shared videos of landing a quad Axel with the aid of a harness in training. Others attempted it in competition but did not land it clean, including two-time Olympic gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan, who made it his mission to land the jump, even in retirement from competition.

Last December, Hanyu two-footed a quadruple Axel attempt landing at the Japanese Championships. The jump was well shy of four and a half rotations, so it was downgraded to a triple Axel, but it marked the best attempt in competition of any skater to that point.

At the Beijing Olympics, Hanyu fell on a quad Axel attempt. It was deemed under-rotated but not downgraded.

“Hanyu definitely inspired me to try it here,” Malinin said.

Russian-turned American Artur Dmitriev Jr. worked on a quad Axel for years but did not master it. He was credited with an under-rotated quad Axel at January’s nationals, where he stepped out of the landing.

The Axel was created by Norwegian Axel Paulsen, who landed it at the first international skating “meeting” in Vienna in 1882. American Dick Button landed the first double Axel en route to the first of his back-to-back Olympic titles in 1948.

The first triple Axel in competition was landed by Canadian Vern Taylor at the 1978 World Championships.

“It’s been 43 years since Vern Taylor of Canada successfully landed the 3A in 1978,” Hanyu said in December. “No skater has been able to add another rotation to this so far. Trying to do something nobody else has done is like walking in the dark.”

NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine
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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.”

Ilia Malinin wins U.S. Figure Skating Championships despite quadruple Axel miss

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One year ago, Ilia Malinin came to the U.S. Championships as, largely, a 17-year-old unknown. He finished second to Nathan Chen in 2022 and was left off the three-man Olympic team due to his inexperience, a committee decision that lit a fire in him.

After the biggest year of change in U.S. figure skating in three decades, Malinin came to this week’s nationals in San Jose, California, as the headliner across all disciplines.

Though he fell on his quadruple Axel and doubled two other planned quads in Sunday’s free skate (the most ambitious program in history), he succeeded the absent Chen as national champion.

Malinin, the world’s second-ranked male singles skater, still landed two clean quads in Friday’s short program and three more Sunday. He totaled 287.74 points and prevailed by 10.43 over two-time Olympian Jason Brown, a bridge between the Chen and Malinin eras.

“This wasn’t the skate that I wanted,” said Malinin, who was bidding to become the second man to land six quads in one program after Chen. The Virginia chalked up the flaws at least partially to putting more recent practice time into his short program, which he skated clean on Friday after errors in previous competitions.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results

Brown, a 28-year-old competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Olympics, became the oldest male singles skater to finish in the top three at nationals since Jeremy Abbott won the last of his four titles in 2014. As usual, he didn’t attempt a quad but had the highest artistic score by 9.41 points.

Brown’s seven total top-three finishes at nationals tie him with Chen, Michael WeissBrian Boitano, David Jenkins and Dick Button for the second-most in men’s singles since World War II, trailing only Todd Eldredge‘s and Hayes Jenkins‘ eight.

“I’m not saying it’s super old, but I can’t train the way I used to,” Brown said after Friday’s short program. “What Ilia is doing and the way he is pushing the sport is outstanding and incredible to watch. I cannot keep up.”

Andrew Torgashev took bronze, winning the free skate with one quad and all clean jumps. Torgashev, who competed at nationals for the first time since placing fifth in 2020 at age 18, will likely round out the three-man world team.

Japan’s Shoma Uno will likely be the favorite at worlds. He won last year’s world title, when Malinin admittedly cracked under pressure in the free skate after a fourth-place short program and ended up ninth.

That was before Malinin became the first person to land a quad Axel in competition. That was before Malinin became the story of the figure skating world this fall. That was before Malinin took over the American throne from Chen, who is studying at Yale and not expected to return to competition.

Malinin’s next step is to grab another label that Chen long held: best in the world. To do that, he must be better than he was on Sunday.

“You always learn from your experiences, and there’s always still the rest of the season to come,” he said. “I just have to be prepared and prepare a little bit extra so that doesn’t happen again.”

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