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Ilia Malinin lands quadruple Axel at Skate America, youngest men’s champion ever

Ilia Malinin, 17, becomes the youngest male figure skater to ever win Skate America following a perfectly-executed quad axel during his performance.

Ilia Malinin landed the second quadruple Axel in history at Skate America and jumped from fourth place to become the youngest men’s champion in the event’s history.

Malinin, the 17-year-old world junior champion from Virginia, opened his free skate Saturday by landing the hardest quad jump -- the four-and-half revolution Axel with a forward takeoff. The other five quad jumps -- all previously landed by multiple skaters -- are four revolutions (one half-revolution fewer than the Axel) with backward takeoffs.

Malinin landed five quads total (one under-rotated) and also fell on a triple Salchow.

Last month, he became the first skater to land a clean, fully rotated quad Axel in competition at a lower-level event.

“This morning, I wasn’t really sure if I would attempt it or not,” Malinin said on NBC Sports. “It came over my mind. Everyone’s watching. I have to go for this. I went for it, and I just landed it, and I was in shock. I mean, the whole building was screaming for at least a couple of seconds after that. I didn’t even know the music was still playing.”

Malinin improved from fourth place after Friday’s short program to win his senior Grand Prix debut by 7.18 points over fellow 17-year-old Kao Miura of Japan.

Earlier, world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier became the first U.S. pair to win a full-fledged Grand Prix event in 16 years. Knierim and Frazier topped both the short program and free skate, totaling 201.39 points to beat Canadians Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps by 3.5 points.

Knierim and Frazier, competing in the absence of the top pairs from Russia banned due to the war in Ukraine, became the first U.S. pair to win Skate America since 2006 (not counting 2020, when the field was almost entirely American due to pandemic travel restrictions).

Stellato-Dudek, 39, earned her first senior Grand Prix medal, 22 years after her Grand Prix debut as a singles skater. Stellato-Dudek, who retired from singles skating at age 17 due to hip injuries, came back at 32 in pairs in 2016.

SKATE AMERICA: Broadcast Schedule

American ice dancers Madison Chock and Evan Bates along with Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto, the women’s world champion, took the lead after their short programs on Saturday.

Chock and Bates, who finished in fourth at the Beijing Olympics, scored 82.63 points for their rhumba, despite a couple of mistakes in the program. They struggled through their rotational lift and Bates made a bobble on his twizzle.

It was still enough to lead American teammates Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, the silver medalists at Skate America two years ago, who scored 79.12 points. Marie-Jade Lauriault and Romain le Gac were third with 72.12 points.

In the women’s event, Sakamoto breezed through a Janet Jackson medley to score 71.72 points, even though the Olympic bronze medalist followed her triple flip with a double toe loop rather than another triple.

Sakamoto has a slim lead heading into Sunday’s free skate over 15-year-old American Isabeau Levito, who scored 71.30 points in her senior Grand Prix debut. The highlight was a big opening triple flip, though she underrotated a triple loop on her triple-triple combination later in the program and that was enough to leave her in second place.

Levito’s teammate, Amber Glenn, was third with 68.42 points.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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