by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
(22 April 2022) The men’s competition at Junior Worlds 2022 in Tallinn had a good level in spite of the political ban of the Russian skaters and the fear of Covid-19 of the Chinese skaters. The new Junior World Champion is U.S. skater Ilia Malinin, second at U.S. Nationals 2022 and ninth at Senior Worlds in March 2022. He set up three world records for Juniors in Tallinn in a run-away victory, one for the short program with 88.99 points (quads are not allowed in a junior short program, therefore the points are lower than in a senior short program), one for the free program (187.12 points) and 276.11 total points. He is the 17-year-old son of Tatiana Malinina and Roman Skorniakov who competed at several World Championships for Uzbekistan around the year 2000 and are two of his coaches, the third one being Rafael Arutunian. Two years ago he had been 16th at Junior Worlds in the same rink in Tallinn.
Malinin took the lead in the short program to the music of “Billie Jean“ by David Cook. His combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop was very good, his triple flip and triple Axel excellent, his spins and his step sequence (all level 4) outstanding. He often takes both arms over his head during the jumps, which is more difficult. His components were around 8.2. He commented, “I feel very excited that I skated the best I came here to skate. I prepared a lot for this moment to make sure I skate clean and do the best possible. It’s different from the senior level because at the senior level I had quads in the short. It's a bit different, it’s kind of hard because you have to focus on not over-rotating your triples. Overall it’s an easier layout and definitely better to work on your skating skills. You can have that shine more than the jumps.“
Malinin opened his long program to “Nobody Knows” by the U.S. glam metal band Autograft and to “Golden Age” by Woodkid with a shaky quad Lutz, followed by three excellent jumps, a quad toe loop, a triple Axel and a quad Salchow. In the second half, where jumps count 10 per cent more, he performed three good combinations, one with quad toe loop, Euler and triple Salchow, one with a triple flip and a triple toe loop and one with a triple Lutz and a triple toe loop. His spins and step were as excellent as usual, but his components of around 8.3 have room for improvement.
He explained, “I feel relieved that I finished the season really, really good and that I was able to skate a clean long. After Junior Worlds was held here a couple of years ago, I noticed that I needed to work a lot more on getting better jumping, and more skating quality, better spins and choreography overall. So the past few years we've been working on those the most and it definitely helped out in the long run.
For me I really look up to Nathan (Chen) because he definitely inspired me and he showed he's been really consistent these past few seasons. It's motivating me to try and also be as consistent as him.“
Mikhail Shaidorov from Kazakhstan trains in Sochi in Russia with Alexei Urmanov. He moved up from the eighth place in the short to win the silver medal earning 234.31 points. In the short to the soundtrack of “Va-bank“ by Rene Aubry, he had the same elements as Malinin and made no real mistakes, but his elements generally were a bit weaker. He began his free program to the well-known soundtrack of “Once Upon a Time in America“, with a quad Lutz, but it was under-rotated. Later he had two good quad toe loops, the first one with a triple toe loop, and five more triples. He said could not go to Senior Worlds because French authorities denied him a visa without buying a return ticket before asking for a visa. But he did not want to risk to buy a non-refundable expensive ticket if he did not know if he would get a visa. After the beginning of the war, he could no longer train during the high level training time in Sochi because he was no Russian and could not do run-throughs. He said, “I’m very happy with the result, I did my maximum. We had a very difficult preparation for this competition as I had to skate on public sessions. But I was able to deal with the situation.“
Tatsuya Tsuboi from Japan won the bronze medal with 233.82 points. In the short program he had the same elements as the top two, but the Lutz got a small edge warning. His spins and steps were good, his components around 7.1. He opened his free program to three Preludes by Sergei Rakhmaninov with a quad Salchow, which was nearly under-rotated (q). Seven triple jumps followed, among them two good Axels. His components were around 7.7. Later he explained, “Due to my age I’m automatically going up to the senior level next season. In Japan, the men’s senior field is very strong. We have world top skaters like Yuzuru Hanyu, Shoma Uno and Yuma Kagiyama. I will try to get as good as they are.“
Wesley Chiu from Canada dropped from second to fourth place with 228.29 points. He had a clean short program with the same elements as the top three. He said, “For me it was kind of heartbreaking to hear the postponement of Junior Worlds. But after hearing that it would be in April in Tallinn I just continued to stick to my training plan for this competition.“ In the long program, his first quad toe loop was a bit shaky and he fell on the second one. Three triples were good, but he stepped out of two others.
The other Canadian Stephen Gogolev, student of Rafael Arutunian, had a growth spurt of more than one foot in the last two years and finished fifth with 224.49 points, performing a clean quad Salchow in the free program. Mihhail Selevko from Estonia came sixth with 218.69 points and high components after being even third in the short program. Nikolaj Memola from Italy placed seventh with 212.94 points.
The second U.S. skaters Liam Kapeikis of Richmond, British Columbia in Canada, seventh at U.S. Senior Nationals 2022, finished on eighth position with 210.94 points. After a clean short program with a triple Axel he was even fourth, but dropped after making four mistakes in the free program.
Naoki Rossi from Switzerland is an extremely talented skater of only 15 years and finished ninth with 206.65 points. Georgii Reshtenko from the Czech Republic had published he was upset not to be nominated for Senior Worlds after his countryman Michal Brezina had retired. He is tenth with 201.76 points after performing a good quad toe loop in the free program. The third U.S. skater Kai Kovar of ended up 18th with 176.23 points. He had competed at the Egna Spring Trophy in Italy just three days before skating in Tallinn. In the short he stepped out of the triple Axel and fell on the triple Lutz of his combination. In the free, four triple jumps were clean, but he missed two others.