Quadgod: Ilia Malinin shines on the ice and takes figure skating to the next level

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<p><figcaption class=Ilia Malinin became only the second skater ever to complete six quadruple jumps in a single program in Montreal.Photo: Geoff Robins/AFP/Getty Images

Ilia Malinin’s star-making, record-breaking free skate to win the men’s singles at the World Figure Skating Championships in Montreal last week has sent shockwaves through the sport and beyond.

The flaxen-haired American teen delivered a mesmerizing performance to music from the TV show Succession, which was immediately hailed as the greatest athletic display in figure skating history. Malinin performed last in the field of 24 competitors, becoming the second person ever to perform six quadruple jumps in a single program and the first to do so with a quad axel, the heart-stopping four-and-a-half revolution jump that is beyond the pale. reach of the sport’s most ambitious talents.

Related: American prodigy Ilia Malinin practices six quads to win the first world figure skating title

Propelled by Nicholas Britell’s moody eight-chord motif from Succession, the lithe 19-year-old made the unthinkable look elemental as he coolly launched into one point-devouring quad after another in a monochrome, tuxedo-inspired suit, showcasing the effortless strength, shape and form to see. and fearlessness that have become his calling card in just two seasons at senior level.

While Saturday’s network broadcast on NBC drew a modest 1.56 million U.S. television viewers against March Madness, it has gone viral in the days since, with millions of views across social media platforms with glowing articles everywhere from the New York Times and Good Morning America to the music blog Stereogum and the famous news site Just Jared. “I am so honored that Ilia skated to selections from my music,” Britell told The Guardian. “It’s really exciting to see how the score extends beyond the TV screen.”

The quadruple axel is the most difficult part of figure skating because skaters face forward when entering the jump, requiring them to complete an extra half revolution. He has landed just eight times in the competition, all by Malinin, since he first achieved it at the US Classic two years ago when he was 17.

The largest crowd of the week at Center Bell watched as Malinin attacked the back half of the program and drew audible gasps with a quad lutz-single euler-triple Salchow combination, followed by a quad toe-triple toe and triple lutz -triple axel sequence . By the time he practiced his final jumping pass, with about half a minute to go and the outcome beyond doubt, the entire building stood on its feet and clapped in time to a deafening roar. After closing with his signature raspberry spin, Malinin collapsed on the ice in disbelief and covered his face with his hands, overcome with emotion.

“I’m still in shock. I still can’t believe I did this,” said Malinin, who has won the past two U.S. national championships and took bronze at the world championships last year. “When I got into the starting position, I knew this could be the best skate of my life, or it could go terribly wrong. So I just thought, ‘Keep myself under control and try to attack everything.’”

Malinin’s sensational performance, choreographed by Canadian ice dancer Shae-Lynn Bourne, herself world champion in 2003, almost never came to fruition. He admitted that he had considered withdrawing from the season-ending competition in recent weeks, citing ongoing problems with his skating boots and injuries that he repeatedly declined to address in the lead-up. Although he skated cleanly and hit a pair of quadruple jumps in Thursday’s short program, Malinin’s omission of the quad axel cost him the other end of the score and left him in third place entering the free skate behind his Japanese rivals Shoma Uno and Yuma Kagiyama. both matched the American’s two quads that day.

But after spending most of the season dialing back his quads and knowing he needed something special to overtake the leaders, Malinin pulled out all the stops on Saturday and made a mockery of the sport’s technical limits. Skating with verve and tempo on the ponderous strings, dissonant piano chords and driving 808s of Britell’s crowd-pleasing earworm, he peeled off a quad axel, quad lutz, quad loop, quad Salchow, another quad lutz combined with a triple flip, a quad toe walk in combination with a triple toe, and then added the triple lutz-triple axel combo to finish with a free-skate score of 227.79, beating compatriot Nathan Chen’s record by nearly three points.

All six of Malinin’s quads achieved positive execution numbers. Anyone watching at home would have thought it was a pre-recorded special compiled from the best bits from multiple performances. The shock of seeing it in real life, compared to the winning shows of even a few years ago, was about the equivalent of watching an Imax screening of Mad Max: Fury Road after streaming Bullitt in your bedroom. This was figure skating’s inherent marriage of athleticism and artistry, catapulted to stunning new heights.

“It means so much to me,” says Malinin, whose self-made Instagram account (@quadg0d) from years ago has proven eerily prescient. “The last few weeks have been such a mental and physical challenge to go through. I was even unsure whether I should come here or not. It was the last minute, but I wanted to come here and see what I can do on the ice. I’m so happy to be at the top here now.”

Born in the suburbs of Northern Virginia to Russian-born Uzbek skaters Tatiana Malinina and Roman Skorniakov, Malinin has completed a meteoric rise to the top of the sport after winning the world junior title just 23 months ago and installed himself as a (very) early favorite at the 2026 Winter Games in Italy. Kagiyama, the 2022 Olympic silver medalist, offered an extraordinary admission alongside Malinin in the aftermath on Saturday, telling a gallery of more than a hundred international reporters through an interpreter: “If we both perform at 100% of our ability, I think not that I will be able to win.”

The meteoric rise of the fresh-faced American is a welcome development in a sport that has been beset by controversy in recent years. The doping case of Russian teenager Kamila Valieva overshadowed the figure skating competition at the most recent Winter Games, if not the entire Olympics themselves. When the International Skating Union finally awarded medals for the team competition in January, almost two years after it took place, a creative bit of Hollywood accounting left Russia on the podium and Canada in fourth place.

All sports need stars. And the strangely sparse crowds during the first three days in Montreal, where the largest figure skating competition outside the Olympics took place for the first time since 1932, spoke of a transition period. The absence of the Russian contingent, still barred from international events during their country’s war in Ukraine, added a silent asterisk to the women’s competition, which was reflected in the disappointing attendance.

Until last Saturday night, when in the space of four and a half electrifying minutes, Malinin lit an otherwise muted world and figure skating in general on fire, raising the bar for everyone when the next season kicked off in October.

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