As Ilia Malinin ponders quintuple jump, figure skating may face an urgent matter
SAN JOSE, California - The subject of a five-revolution jump was sure to come up, now that Ilia Malinin has become the first person to land a fully rotated quadruple Axel, which has four and one-half revolutions in the air.
And, in Malinin’s case, to land it cleanly not only once but three times this fall, the most recent with stunning command at December’s Grand Prix Final.
Rafael Arutunian, who coaches Malinin intermittently, said via telephone that he and the skater talked about a quintuple when they were working together in California during the high school senior’s recent holiday break.
“I was basically saying a five-revolution toe loop can be done,” Arutunian said. “He agreed and was smiling.”
“It is definitely in the back of my mind right now,” Malinin, 18, said in media conference call last week. “It’s very hard to think of it at this moment because it’s still pretty much the middle of the middle of the season. I think after the season I’ll think about it, and maybe we will see one.”
With a laugh, Arutunian described the impish plan he is dreaming of for Malinin to make the attempt.
The jump would come out of the blue.
This is the scenario: Arutunian would ask Malinin, favored to win his first senior U.S. Championship title this weekend in San Jose, not to publicize his practicing a quint on social media, as he had done with the quad Axel and many of the unprecedented jump combinations he tries.
“He would just come out and do it in a competition, and that would be a shock, right?” said Arutunian, who guided Nathan Chen to the 2022 Olympic title. “Imagine what the officials would do then.”
As it turns out, the officials would do literally nothing. Under current rules, Malinin would get zero points for the jump, as quintuple jumps are not yet recognized or given a value in the sport’s Scale of Values (SOV).
That is something U.S. Figure Skating president Sam Auxier plans to discuss with Fabio Bianchetti, head of the International Skating Union’s singles and pairs technical committee, when the two are to meet at next month’s Four Continents Championships in Colorado Springs.
“I believe Fabio and the technical committee will update the SOV soon, and if anyone is practicing (a quint) and may try it, they will get the change in before it is done in competition,” Auxier said in a text message. “With Ilia, I think that needs to be urgent!”
Even before such a rules change is made, Auxier said, if competition officials were aware a skater was planning to attempt a quint, they would ask for an emergency ruling and have the tech team add a value into the computer system used to calculate scores.
“We wouldn’t let it be zero,” Auxier said. “However, if someone did it with no warning ... that would be a problem.”
Bianchetti does not feel the same sense of urgency.
“So far the prospect of executing quintuple jumps seems remote,” Bianchetti said in an email. “We are not aware of any quintuple jump correctly executed and full rotated having been done even in practice.
“Therefore there is not an urgent need to add quintuple jumps in the SOV. In any case it is something we will discuss in the near future.”
For now, then, everyone can continue to marvel at Malinin’s quad Axel. He said the jump has not become a burden and isn’t worried about fans being disappointed if he doesn’t attempt one, as Malinin has in all five of his competitions so far this season.
“Some people might think that (it is a burden),” he said. “My priority is focusing on what I’m doing in practice. I have been sticking with it, and I am planning to attempt it (in the free skate at nationals.)”
The irony is the risk on the jump seems greater than the reward, given the quad Axel’s surprisingly low base value as compared to its difficulty and uniqueness.
“I have always prided myself on looking for a challenge,” Malinin said.
At 12.5 points, the jump is worth just one point more than a four-revolution quad Lutz. Yet 23 men and women have been credited with a fully rotated quad Lutz a total of 228 times in international competition, according to skatingscores.com.
Until the SOV revision for the 2018-19 season, when no one had landed a quad Axel, it was worth 15.0. All quads had their base values lowered in 2018, but the Axel had the biggest percentage drop.
“It should definitely be worth more, and we will ask that be considered also,” Auxier said. “(A base value of) 12.5 doesn’t reflect the true difficulty of the jump.”
Bianchetti sees it differently. His perspective is affected by a general feeling many in the sport share that jump pyrotechnics have become too big a factor in determining results.
“As to the value of the quad Axel, the matter to change its value is not on the agenda at the moment,” Bianchetti wrote. “A discussion to make some changes on the value of the jumps should include a general evaluation on all the jumps, not only the quad Axel, to have a more correct proportion between the various jumps but taking also into consideration the fact that the weight of the jump elements in total is already too high with respect to the other not jumping elements and the components marks.”
Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 12 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com.
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