Ilia Malinin, the 17-year-old figure skater from Vienna, Va., who has quickly captivated the sport with an array of seemingly effortless jumps, became the first skater to ever land a quadruple Axel in competition Wednesday night at the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic in Lake Placid, N.Y.
His performance Wednesday helped him get past a disappointing sixth-place finish in short program and win his season-opening event.
“It felt really good. When I’m practicing it, it’s pretty easy for me to figure out how to get the right timing and everything to have it be a good attempt,” Malinin said of completing the jump (via U.S. Figure Skating). “To do it in competition is a different story because you have nerves and pressure that can get in the way of that. So I have to treat it like I’m at home and it feels pretty good … I had an idea for trying it for a little while now. March or April was when I really started to work on the technique and try to improve it … [Yuzuru Hanyu] definitely inspired me to try it here.”
The quad axel was one of five quads, Malinin tried in a free skate routine that also included a triple Lutz-triple Axel combination near the end. He fell on a quad Lutz attempt but landed all of his other jumps. He finished the free skate in first place with a score of 257.28.
While Malinin is the first to land a quad Axel, he is not the first skater to attempt the trick in competition. Most famously, Japan’s legendary skater Yuzuru Hanyu tried it during the Beijing Olympics but stumbled after not properly rotating the jump.
Malinin is widely seen as the next great U.S. male skater, regularly posting stunning videos of himself practicing some of skating’s most difficult jumps on an Instagram account quadg0d. He nearly forced his way onto the United States Olympic team with a silver medal at last January’s U.S. Figure Skating Championships, only to lose out when team officials chose to go with the experience of Nathan Chen, Vincent Zhou and Jason Brown.