Ilia Malinin made figure-skating history Wednesday night.
The 17-year-old American became the first person to ever land a quad axel in competition, pushing the sport’s boundaries with a four-and-a-half revolution jump at the start of his long program en route to a victory at the U.S. Classic in Lake Placid, New York.
“It felt really good,” Malinin said, according to a news release from U.S. Figure Skating. “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. To do it in competition is a different story because you have nerves and pressure that can get in the way of that.”
In a sport that has become increasingly technical over the years, the quad axel had been viewed as the next frontier – the only quadruple jump that had yet to be landed in competition.
Male figure skaters have been landing quadruple jumps since 1988, when Canada’s Kurt Browning first pulled off a quad toe loop at the world championships in Budapest. American Nathan Chen landed five quads en route to an Olympic gold medal in Beijing in February.
But the axel is a different beast. It is the most difficult of the sport’s jumps because, based on the trajectory of the takeoff, it requires an extra half-rotation to complete.
Malinin, who lives and trains in the Virginia suburbs outside Washington D.C., said he had been thinking about attempting the quad axel “for a little while now” but only started seriously practicing it earlier this year. He had posted video clips of him successfully landing it on his Instagram account, which bears the appropriate handle “quadg0d.”
“March or April was when I really started to work on the technique and try to improve it,” he said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “(Yuzuru Hanyu) definitely inspired me to try it here.”
Hanyu, the two-time Olympic gold medalist from Japan, attempted a quad axel during his long program at the 2022 Beijing Olympics but was unable to land it.
Malinin was not among the three American men selected to compete at those Games, despite finishing second at the national championships beforehand. U.S. Figure Skating instead gave the third spot to more experienced skater Jason Brown, who finished sixth overall in Beijing.
Malinin, however, is widely viewed as one of the sport’s up-and-coming stars – and perhaps the heir apparent to Chen, who stepped away from the sport after winning gold. Still just 17, Malinin won the 2022 junior world championships by a wide margin and will be a name to know ahead of the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan.
Contact Tom Schad at [email protected] or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.