Ilia Malinin wins US national figure skating title with missed quadruple Axel

Ilia Malinin wins US national figure skating title with missed quadruple Axel

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Ilia Malinin will clearly have mixed emotions when he remembers winning his first figure skating title in the United States.

It was evident in his reaction after completing Sunday’s free skate.

The 18-year-old of unlimited potential and seemingly unlimited confidence had been shaken by his worst free program of the season.

He shook his head sadly. Then he shook it again.

“Of course, it wasn’t the skate I wanted, but there are always ups and downs, and right after that you recover and move on,” Malinin said.


He planned the most difficult technical program anyone had ever attempted, with six quadruple jumps and two difficult combinations in the second half of the four-minute program. And he kept trying to execute it, even after major mistakes that would leave him second to surprise. Andre Torgashev in free skating.

Malinin (287.74 points in total) still finished comfortably ahead of the evergreen Jason Brown (277.31). Torgashev finished third overall with 256.56.

Malinin skated hard rather than the drive that infused her brilliant short program on Friday, by far her best short program of the season.

“I think I was just a bit slow and just wasn’t prepared for what was to come,” he said.

Malinin fell on his opening jump, the quad Axel, then landed three more quads clear. He turned two more planned quads into doubles, then turned his final jump pass, planned as a two-jump streak, into an unprecedented triple Lutz-triple Axel-triple toe loop streak. For context: only Malinin did a triple Lutz-triple Axel sequence.

“I think it’s not that I planned too much,” he said. “I think I wasn’t really prepared for that amount. And it was mainly because we were focusing on this short program.

Brown, 28, who first competed at the senior nationals 12 years ago, skated beautifully. Had it not been for a fall during his ambitious final free skate jump, a triple flip coming off a knee slip, Brown’s overall performance in both short and free would have been as good as the one he did at the United States Championships.

With his longevity and insight, Brown, a two-time Olympian and seven-time national medalist (gold in 2015), was able to put what had happened to Malinin into perspective and encourage him not to lose faith.

Brown heard the press conference questions Malinin had about what was wrong, both legitimate and expected questions, and he didn’t want his young teammate to dwell on them.

“You did a triple Lutz-triple Axel-triple toe at the end of your program, and I did a knee slide and I could barely get up to do the flip,” Brown told Malinin, seated at next to him on the dais.

“The way you continue to push the sport is incredible. So don’t stop being you.

Malinin, an unexpected runner-up at last year’s nationals, came here in a brighter spotlight than he had known, in large part due to his historic success earlier this season as the first to land an Axel quad in competition.

For all of her disarming bravado, as evidenced by her choice of quadg0d as her social media name, Malinin isn’t immune to the pressure of a big event and her position as the frontrunner.

“There’s a (necessary) amount of experience that takes time to get,” Brown said. “I’ve been through it all. I had a lot of ups, I had a lot of downs. As you (Malinin) said, it’s how you take that experience, learn from it, and grow from it. That’s what you’re gonna do.

Malinin and Brown leave on Monday to perform eight shows in three Swiss cities over 11 days with the Art on Ice tour. They are both expected to be on the US team for the world championships in March in Japan.

Malinin leaves with the title and the satisfaction of not having minimized the risk given his big lead after the short program.

“It was an opportunity for me to try this new layout,” Malinin said. “Of course it didn’t go very well. We will take advice and look forward to the world championships.

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the past 12 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to

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