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 four and a half revolutions) 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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Kenenisa Bekele still eyes Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon world record, but a duel must wait

Kenenisa Bekele
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LONDON — Kenenisa Bekele made headlines last week by declaring “of course I am the best” long distance runner ever. But the Ethiopian was fifth-best at Sunday’s London Marathon, finishing 74 seconds behind Kenya’s Amos Kipruto.

Bekele, 40, clocked 2:05:53, the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. He was with the lead pack until being dropped in the 21st mile.

But Bekele estimated he could have run 90 to 120 seconds faster had he not missed parts of six weeks of training with hip and joint injuries.

“I expect better even if the preparation is short,” he said. “I know my talent and I know my capacity, but really I couldn’t achieve what I expect.”

Bekele is the second-fastest marathoner in history behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, who broke his own world record by clocking 2:01:09 at the Berlin Marathon last week.

“I am happy when I see Eliud Kipchoge run that time,” Bekele said. “It motivates all athletes who really expect to do the same thing.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Bekele’s best time was within two seconds of Kipchoge’s previous world record (2:01:39). He described breaking Kipchoge’s new mark as the “main goal” for the rest of his career.

“Yes, I hope, one day it will happen, of course,” Bekele said. “With good preparation, I don’t know when, but we will see one more time.”

Nobody has won more London Marathons than Kipchoge, a four-time champion who set the course record (2:02:37) in 2019. But the two-time Olympic marathon champion did not run this year in London, as elite marathoners typically choose to enter one race each spring and fall.

Bekele does not know which race he will enter in the spring. But it will not be against Kipchoge.

“I need to show something first,” Bekele said. “I need to run a fast time. I have to check myself. This is not enough.”

Kipchoge will try to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles at the Paris Games. Bekele, who will be 42 in 2024, has not committed to trying to qualify for the Ethiopian team.

“There’s a long time to go before Paris,” Bekele said. “At this moment I am not decided. I have to show something.”

So who is the greatest long distance runner ever?

Bekele can make a strong case on the track:

Bekele
Four Olympic medals (three gold)
Six World Championship medals (five gold)
Former 5000m and 10,000m world-record holder

Kipchoge
Two Olympic medals
Two World Championship medals (one gold)

But Kipchoge can make a strong case on the pavement:

Bekele
Second-fastest marathoner in history
Two World Marathon Major victories

Kipchoge
Four of the five best marathon times in history
Two-time Olympic marathon champion
12 World Marathon Major victories

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Yalemzerf Yehualaw, Amos Kipruto win London Marathon

Yalemzerf Yehualaw
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Ethiopian Yalemzerf Yehualaw became the youngest female runner to win the London Marathon, while Kenyan Amos Kipruto earned the biggest victory of his career in the men’s race.

Yehualaw, 23, clocked 2:17:26, prevailing by 41 seconds over 2021 London champ Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya.

Yehualaw tripped and fell over a speed bump around the 20-mile mark. She quickly rejoined the lead pack, then pulled away from Jepkosgei by running the 24th mile in a reported 4:43, which converts to 2:03:30 marathon pace; the women’s world record is 2:14:04.

Yehualaw and Jepkosgei were pre-race favorites after world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya withdrew Monday with a right hamstring injury.

On April 24, Yehualaw ran the fastest women’s debut marathon in history, a 2:17:23 to win in Hamburg, Germany.

She has joined the elite tier of female marathoners, a group led by Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir, the reigning Olympic, New York City and Boston champion. Another Ethiopian staked a claim last week when Tigist Assefa won Berlin in 2:15:37, shattering Yehualaw’s national record.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, finished Sunday’s race in 3:20:20 at age 65.

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Kipruto, 30, won the men’s race in 2:04:39. He broke free from the leading group in the 25th mile and crossed the finish line 33 seconds ahead of Ethiopian Leul Gebresilase, who said he had hamstring problems.

Kipruto, one of the pre-race favorites, had never won a major marathon but did finish second behind world record holder Eliud Kipchoge in Tokyo (2022) and Berlin (2018) and third at the world championships (2019) and Tokyo (2018).

Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest marathoner in history, was fifth after being dropped in the 21st mile. His 2:05:53 was the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. Bekele ran his personal best at the 2019 Berlin Marathon — 2:01:41 — and has not run within four minutes of that time since.

The major marathon season continues next Sunday with the Chicago Marathon, headlined by a women’s field that includes Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich and American Emily Sisson.

London returns next year to its traditional April place after being pushed to October the last three years due to the pandemic.

MORE: Bekele looks ahead to Kipchoge chase after London Marathon

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