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Ilia Malinin, Jason Brown overcome doubts just to get to figure skating worlds

MONTREAL – Ilia Malinin may already be the greatest jumper of all time in figure skating, but judges still think he has a way to go in mastering the art of the sport before being considered one of the great skaters of all time.

Or even the greatest of this time.

In Thursday’s short program at the world championships, Malinin executed all his jumps with grace, power and apparent ease. But that wasn’t enough to compensate for the deficiencies on the program components (PCS) side that left him third to sparkling overall performances by two-time reigning world champion Shoma Uno of Japan and his countryman, Yuma Kagiyama.

The two Japanese men matched Malinin quad-for-quad, with two well-executed quads apiece. But Malinin would have needed his singular jump, the quad Axel, to cover the difference in PCS.

FIGURE SKATING WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Malinin attributed his decision not to do the quad Axel to physical issues he would not specify but indicated were serious enough for him to consider not competing at worlds.

He said he had also considered skipping the U.S. Championships in January — when he won a second straight title — because of persistent issues with his skate boots.

“It’s been pretty hard mentally and physically for me, going through just a lot of injury,” Malinin said Thursday. “Just a lot of doubt in my mind. It was a very tough time for me to want to skate.”

Malinin had 105.97 points to 107.72 for Uno and 106.35 for Kagiyama. He had nearly three fewer PCS points than Uno and nearly two fewer than Kagiyama, a gap he thought was less a message from the judges than one from his body.

“Today was not one of the better short programs I have done, even though I was able to stay on my feet and land everything,” he said. “I definitely know that (without the problems) that I could put a lot more effort in powering through (for) that second score or just making everything a bit cleaner and effortless.”

Shortcomings in those areas cost him points on a step sequence that did not get the maximum level and on the execution of his final spin.

Malinin can make up the gap on his Japanese rivals in Saturday’s free skate if he cleanly executes his usual array of quads, including the Axel — should he feel strong enough to do it.

Meanwhile, the evergreen but quad-less Jason Brown slipped into fourth at 93.87, a result Brown would not have expected in a season when he has several times -– including as recently as February — thought about ending his competitive career.

Trying to balance training for competition with extensive show commitments became tougher for the two-time Olympian, now 29, to handle than it had when he tried it for the first time last season. He still managed to finish second to Malinin at the U.S. Championships this year and last.

“I can’t tell you the number of times that I came to Tracy (Wilson, his coach) and was like, `I think we should call it.’ I really do think I have overextended myself,” Brown said. “It was too much.’’

Support from Wilson, his family and U.S. Figure Skating helped Brown persevere. One of the things Wilson suggested to make up for his lack of consistent training was to do the short program as a number in the shows.

“He is kind of going on a different path,” Wilson said. “And I think whenever you’re an outlier, it’s very lonely.

“In his mind, he was going to be done after the (2022) Olympics. And then at the end of last year, he said, ‘OK, I think I am done.’ And then he would call me from a tour and say he wanted to be back.”

He did the short program with the command of a skater who had practiced it repeatedly.

The music, from the same composer Nathan Chen used in his brilliant “Nemesis” program, included a passage Brown said was definitely an homage to Olympic champion Chen.

The way Brown handled its striking choreography in the step sequence, when his body movements create an impression of matching the music’s tempo, was classic Jason Brown artistry.

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

Japan's Uno leads worlds following short program
Looking to defend his world title for a third-straight year, Japan's Shoma Uno leads after the men's short program at the 2024 World Figure Skating Championships following a routine that yielded a score of 107.72 points.