Ilia Malinin repeats as Skate America champion, shatters personal best
Ilia Malinin repeated as Skate America champion, but this year showed he can prevail without a quadruple Axel — and shattered his personal best score.
The 18-year-old landed four other quad jumps, plus a closing combination with a triple Axel as his second jump, in Saturday’s free skate to music from HBO’s “Succession.”
He totaled 310.47 points and distanced Frenchman Kévin Aymoz by 31.38 points. Malinin’s previous best score in international competition was 288.44.
“I did not think that it was a flawless long program,” said Malinin, a Virginian whose parents skated at the Olympics for Uzbekistan. “I didn’t expect that [high of a] score.”
He became the fifth man to break 300 points at an international competition after Olympic gold medalists Nathan Chen and Yuzuru Hanyu and Olympic silver medalists Shoma Uno and Yuma Kagiyama.
His score would have won last season’s world championships (where Malinin took bronze as the lone teen in the top 13) by 9.33.
Malinin received positive grades of execution on all of his jumps for the first time in his senior international career, according to SkatingScores.com.
Last year, Malinin became the first skater to land a clean quad Axel in competition and attempted it at all eight of his events, including in becoming the youngest Skate America men’s champion ever.
This year, he’s focusing more on improving his artistic score. That score between Friday’s short program and Saturday’s free skate was 131.63 points, a personal best by 4.69.
“One of the things that I did was I looked at other skaters and their best performances in the past, like Yuzuru Hanyu, Nathan Chen, and I just took some pieces of their programs and sort of how they attacked the ice and how they really approached the audience from there and tried to use it in my own way,” Malinin said.
He’s playing it safer with his jumps for now, though the quad Axel could return for December’s Grand Prix Final, the first competition of the season that gathers all of the world’s top skaters.
The Skate America field lacked the two men who outscored Malinin at last March’s worlds — Uno and South Korean Cha Jun-Hwan.
Malinin likely faces a bigger test at his next event in France next month, when Kagiyama is in the field.
Earlier, world bronze medalist Loena Hendrickx of Belgium led the women’s short program.
Hendrickx, 23, had three clean jumping passes, including a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination. She tallied 75.92 points to lead going into Sunday’s free skate.
Americans Amber Glenn and Isabeau Levito were second and third. Glenn, the U.S. bronze medalist, posted a career-best short program score of 71.45.
World champions Madison Chock and Evan Bates had the top score in the rhythm dance, about six and a half hours after Chock fell at the end of a lift in practice. Chock lay on the ice for about 20 seconds, then skated on her own power.
Bates said after the rhythm dance that they both felt OK and were cleared to compete by medical staff.
“I lost control of the lift at the end of our program, and it’s a terrible feeling as a partner, especially as a lifting partner,” he said. “What we do is dangerous, and I feel like sometimes that’s overlooked. ... It was a scary moment.”
In Sunday’s free dance, Chock and Bates bid for their fourth Skate America title and a 15th consecutive Skate America crown for a U.S. couple.
Germans Annika Hocke and Robert Kunkel won the pairs, defending their lead from Friday’s short program. The field included zero skaters who previously finished in the top two of any Grand Prix event.
World champions Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara of Japan withdrew last week due to his back injury.