by Liz Leamy
Malinin Triumphs to Take Gold in Men’s Competition
Ilia Malinin, the 17 year-old 2022 World junior champion and 2022 U.S. silver medalist from Northern Virginia, knocked the proverbial ball out of the park at Skate America with his amazing free skate which featured a library of four quads, one of which was an Axel and soared from fourth in the short to first place overall, earning a 194.29 and 280.37 total to claim gold in the men’s event.
Right from the outset, it was clear Malinin was on a mission as he opened up with a solid and lightning-quick quad Axel that he followed up with a quad toe, quad Lutz, quad Salchow and triple Lutz-triple Axel sequence, all of which were executed with command, strength and aptitude, branding him as one of the sport’s rising superstars.
Skating to the dramatic musical piece, ‘Euphoria’ by Labrinth, Malinin, who had a slight slip on the landing of a triple Salchow, was rewarded a majority of plus-three and plus-four grade of execution marks across the board from the nine-member ISU judging panel for nearly all of his jumps.
Meanwhile, Malinin’s artistry was notable as well, as he seemed to visibly connect with the crowd all throughout his program, a goal of which he has been working on all year.
A highlight was when Malinin pointed to the audience while breaking into a big smile during his footwork sequence going into his final spin, something they obviously appreciated and felt based upon the standing ovation they gave him.
For Malinin, who also made history at this event being the youngest-ever men’s winner of any Skate America to date, it was about showing who he is out on the ice.
“I felt great. It was a really good skate. I’m still in shock,” said Malinin. “I just know I trusted my practice and it worked well. It was very important to forget what I did yesterday [in the short program] and just focus on the long. I was really well prepared going into the long. That gave me the confidence to try the quad Axel and I was able to pull it off. I was very happy with how I landed it. I just have to keep that same confidence with every competition I do.”
Kao Miura, the Japanese 2022 Four Continents bronze medalist who placed first in the short, scored silver in the final tally with his freeskate to the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ film soundtrack by Alan Mencken for which he racked up 178.23 points and 273.19 total.
Although he missed an opening quad loop, Miura rallied back with a quad toe-triple toe, quad Salchow, quad toe and triple Axel-double Axel sequence to subsequently render some of the highest numbers of this event.
For Miura, it’s all about growing and getting better through the experience of skating at every competition.
“I was in top form coming in, so I was able to do very well here. I know I made some mistakes and that will give me something to work on for my next competition,” said Miura. “My next competition is [next weekend’s] Skate Canada and it is the first time for me to do two overseas Grand Prix [events]. I learned a lot here and I hope to use it at Skate Canada.”
Junhwan Cha, the talented Korean champion who placed fifth at the 2022 Olympics and was second in the short going into this faceoff, clinched bronze with an exciting free skate to music from the James Bond ‘No Time to Die’ film soundtrack for which he was awarded a 169.61 and 264.05 total.
Cha, who had just turned 21 years old the day prior, was on his game as he knocked out a quad Salchow, quad toe, triple Lutz-triple loop and other notable elements. He did, however, miss a triple Axel.
Still, the overall quality of Cha’s performance was outstanding, something that was reflected both by the crowd’s reaction to him and also in the marks.
“It was not perfect and it was not what I wanted, but I tried hard and I’m quite satisfied,” said Cha. “I can work on my mistakes for next Grand Prix [the NHK Trophy in Japan]. I learned a lot of things yesterday and today and I wanted to work a lot more on my jumps and spins and to have more energy in my program.”
Daniel Grassl, the 2022 Italian European silver medalist, wound up fourth on the leaderboard.
Skating to ‘Struggling Brain’ by Guy Skornik and Zab Skornik, ‘Korea Town’ by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, ‘Hour of the Ruler’ by Joseph Alexander and ‘In the House’ by Philippe Rombi, Grassl, who placed third in the short, reeled off a quad Lutz and quad flip, racking up a 169.25 and 257.67 total.