Will Ilia Malinin bring his quadruple Axel to Skate America?

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It was early last spring that Rafael Arutyunyan, the longtime coach of Nathan Chen, met with Roman Skorniakov, who mentioned that his son, 17-year-old American Ilia Malinin, wanted to land a quadruple Axel, the lone four-revolution jump yet to be done cleanly by any figure skater in competition.

The 65-year-old Arutyunyan, who has worked with Malinin part-time, assured Skorniakov, a 1998 and 2002 Olympic skater for Uzbekistan, that Malinin’s triple Axel was so refined that he would eventually get that quad.

You think so? Skorniakov asked. I know so, Arutyunyan replied.

About a month later, Skorniakov relayed that Malinin had done it. The world found out in May, when U.S. Figure Skating posted video of him hitting the Axel at a camp.

Malinin officially went into the history books when he attempted it in competition for the first time last month, nailing it at his season debut in a lower-level event.

Even before that, Malinin was already the new leading man in U.S. figure skating, given the Olympic champion Chen and teammates Vincent Zhou and Jason Brown are on indefinite, perhaps permanent, breaks from competing.

Now, Malinin is the most talked-about active skater across all four disciplines heading into this weekend’s Skate America, the first top-level event of the season. He is favored to become the youngest man to win the annual competition that started in 1979.

SKATE AMERICA: Broadcast Schedule

“All the eyes being on me, it is putting a lot of pressure,” Malinin, who splits his days between Marshall High School and the SkateQuest rink in Virginia, said last Saturday.

Malinin said he didn’t know yet if he will attempt the quad Axel at Skate America. He is focused on “clean and consistent” programs with a “basic layout,” which includes four other quads in his free skate.

“If I keep putting it in [programs] this season, I think that, over time, it will become pretty consistent; especially if they were to raise the base value, then I feel like there’d be a reason to try and practice it a lot,” Malinin said, referencing the points assigned to a quad Axel by the International Skating Union (12.5, one more point than the next-highest jump, the quad Lutz). “But as of right now, I think we’re not really so sure what to do with it. For now, I think it’s more of practice, instead of like actually trying to put it into the program for value. In future years, when the base value is higher, it will be a lot more reasonable to put it in.”

He didn’t even mention the quad Axel, or any jump, when asked his goals for the season.

“Improve choreography and component score because in the past it’s not been the best,” he said.

Whether fully deserved or not, young jumping phenoms are often dinged in the component — or artistic — scores that can make up half of a skater’s total score. Chen experienced this as a teen, improved on his skating skills and music interpretation, and brought those marks up.

Malinin sees his style as a mix between Chen and his childhood idol, 2014 and 2018 Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, with a little bit of his own taste splashed in. He’s sifting that last part, spending up to 90 minutes of his four-to-five-hour days on the ice on footwork and running through programs without jumps and spins.

Asked how much he travels across the country to see the jumping master Arutyunyan in California, Malinin noted he’ll primarily go out there to work on choreography with renowned Canadian Shae-Lynn Bourne. She also collaborated with Chen.

“I’m sort of in the process of finding my own style,” he said.

He is clearly confident in the jumps. Malinin started believing he could land the quad Axel last season, when skaters including Hanyu were attempting it (but not landing it clean in competition).

“At first it was kind of a joke,” to try it, he said. Malinin began by perfecting his triple Axel, then started practicing the quads in a pole harness (aiding in technique and preventing falls and injury).

“Eventually, it led to me trying a lot of attempts,” he said. “And then I landed it.”

He’s already thinking about an unprecedented quintuple jump. He would like to land one in practice by the end of this season.

“I truly believe this guy can make it happen,” Arutyunyan said.

The question is whether Malinin can do it on the biggest stages in the sport. And not just the jumps, but the whole package.

In January, when the spotlight was on Chen, he broke through with a runner-up in his senior U.S. Championships debut (and was left off the three-man Olympic team due to his youth and lack of overall resume).

At his senior worlds debut in March, he placed ninth after a four-quad free skate that included a fall and two under-rotated jumps.

At the event last month where he hit the quad Axel in his free skate, he also fell twice on quads in his short program. That was in front of few fans in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Malinin was told that this week’s Skate America, the biggest annual international competition held in the U.S., sold out a 2,500-seat arena outside Boston.

“That gets me really excited, but also kind of nerve-racking to see that I’ll be performing in front of a lot of people,” he said. “That will be one thing to just start getting used to with other big competitions, because who knows, there might be a huge stadium full of people that I have to perform to.”

NBC Sports’ Sarah Hughes (not the figure skater) contributed to this report.

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2022 Grand Prix Final figure skating TV, live stream schedule

Ilia Malinin
Getty
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The Grand Prix Final, the most exclusive figure skating competition of the season and a preview of March’s world championships, airs live on Peacock and E! this week.

The top six per discipline from the six-event fall Grand Prix Series gather in Turin, Italy, at the Palavela, the 2006 Olympic venue. It’s the first Grand Prix Final in three years after the 2020 and 2021 events were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. qualified skaters in all four disciplines for the first time since 2007, led by the world’s top-ranked man. Ilia Malinin, who turned 18 last Friday, has been the story of the season, becoming the first skater to land a quadruple Axel in competition.

Malinin, the reigning world junior champion, won both of his Grand Prix starts and posted the best total score among all fall events, edging world champion Shoma Uno of Japan. Malinin and Uno will go head-to-head for the first time this season at the Final.

Isabeau Levito, a 15-year-old world junior champion, is the youngest American at a Final since Caroline Zhang in 2007. She qualified in fifth place. The favorites are Japan’s Mai Mihara and Kaori Sakamoto and Belgian Loena Hendrickx.

The U.S. also qualified two pairs’ teams — world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier and Emily Chan and Spencer Howe — and two ice dance couples — three-time world medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates and Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker.

For the first time, the Final has no Russian skaters. They are banned from international competition due to the war in Ukraine. For the first time in 25 years, there are no Chinese skaters. China’s top pairs’ teams did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Grand Prix Final Broadcast Schedule
All TV coverage also streams on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app for subscribers.

Day Event Time (ET) Platform
Thursday Pairs’ Short Program 1:20-2:15 p.m. Peacock
Men’s Short Program 2:35-3:20 p.m. Peacock
Friday Pairs’ Free Skate 11:35 a.m.-12:40 p.m. Peacock
Rhythm Dance 1:50-2:45 p.m. Peacock
Women’s Short Program 3:05-3:50 p.m. Peacock
Saturday Men’s Short Program* 6:30-7:30 a.m. E!
Men’s Free Skate 7:30-8:30 a.m. E!, Peacock
Women’s Short Program* 8:30-9:30 a.m. E!
Free Dance 1:40-2:40 p.m. Peacock
Women’s Free Skate 3-3:55 p.m. Peacock
Sunday Highlights* 4-6 p.m. NBC

*Delayed broadcast.

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Aleksander Aamodt Kilde sweeps Beaver Creek World Cup races

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Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde held off Swiss Marco Odermatt for a second consecutive day to sweep World Cup races in Beaver Creek, Colorado, this weekend.

Kilde won Sunday’s super-G by two tenths of a second over Odermatt, one day after edging Odermatt by six hundredths. France’s Alexis Pinturault took third as the podium was made up of the last three men to win the World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing.

This season’s overall figures to be a two-man battle between Kilde, the 2019-20 champion, and Odermatt, the reigning champion, and could come down to March’s World Cup Finals. They’ve combined to win the first five of 38 scheduled races.

The top American Sunday was River Radamus, who finished an impressive 16th given his start number was 57. Radamus’ best event is the giant slalom.

Ryan Cochran-Siegle, the Olympic super-G silver medalist, and Travis Ganong, who was third in Beaver Creek last year, both skied out.

The men’s World Cup heads next weekend to Val d’Isere, France, for a giant slalom and slalom.

ALPINE SKIING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

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