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Ilia amazes on historic night in Beijing

By LEI LEI | China Daily | Updated: 2023-12-11 09:54
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Ilia Malinin of the United States poses on the podium with his gold medal after winning his first ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final in Beijing on Saturday. [Photo/AFP]

Figure skating phenom Ilia Malinin took the sport to dizzy new heights in Beijing on Saturday night as the American teenager produced a historic performance to be crowned Grand Prix Final champion for the first time.

Malinin became the first skater to land all six types of quadruple jumps in competition, completing the set with a successful quadruple loop in the men's free skate at the capital's National Indoor Stadium.

The 19-year-old, known as the 'Quad God', also wowed the world on Thursday by landing a quadruple Axel jump, considered the sport's most difficult maneuver. It was the first time the quad Axel was performed successfully in the short program, where it is riskier because there is less margin for error.

Fifteen months ago, Malinin became the first skater to land a quad Axel in competition, at the 2022 US Figure Skating Classic.

Despite crashing in his first attempt at the quad Axel in Saturday's free program, Malinin went on to win gold with a total score of 314.66 points, a personal best. Japan's reigning world champion Shoma Uno and 2022 Olympic silver medalist Yuma Kagiyama claimed silver and bronze, scoring 297.34 and 288.65 respectively.

No skater had ever landed all six quad jumps — the quad toe loop, Salchow, flip, Lutz, Axel and loop — in competition before. Malinin had not landed a quad loop in competition until Saturday's free skate.

"It was the first time I was going for it (in competition). A couple of weeks ago, my quad loop wasn't good at all. I'm really glad I was able to put it out here under pressure," Malinin told reporters after his victory on Saturday.

"Overall I just feel amazed that I was able to pull off that performance after that first mistake."

Malinin captured the title 24 years after his Russian-born mother, Tatiana Malinina, won the Grand Prix Final representing Uzbekistan in Saint Petersburg.

"I'm still trying to express and think of what just went on," Malinin said. "It's incredible to me. I've never felt like this before."

His family's figure skating roots run deep — his grandfather, Valery Malinin, represented the Soviet Union on the ice.

Having been coached by his parents, Malinin said his mother's career continues to be an inspiration for him.

"My mom was at this top level and she went to every final and guided me through all these years of training," he said. "I'm just so glad that they were there. Both my parents support me and got me to where I am today. I'm really grateful for all of them."

Malinin got his 2023-24 campaign, his second adult season, off to a flying start in October at Skate America in Allen, Texas, where the teenager triumphed by breaking the 200- and 300-point barriers in international competition for the first time (206.41 in free skate and 310.47 in total).

He went on to bag silver at the Grand Prix de France behind Adam Siao Him Fa of France, and qualified for the Grand Prix Final.

After his heroics in Beijing, the world can surely look forward to more magical moments from this legend-in-the-making.

"From this grand prix season I've taken a lot from all the performances that I've done," Malinin said.

"I'm just so relieved that the grand prix season is done after all my hard work. And then I'll be able to really take in what I've learned from the season and the Grand Prix Final and really improve on everything leading up to the next couple of competitions."

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