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2022 Skate America Men

by Klaus-Reinhold Kany



The men’s event at Skate America 2022 in Norwood near Boston had a good level with four top skaters, although none of them was without mistakes. Three top U.S. skaters are not competing this season, Olympic gold medalist Nathan Chen is concentrating on his studies at near-by Yale University. Vincent Zhou is at Brown University and Jason Brown worked in the media section, but not as competitor. The biggest story was the excellent quad Axel which U.S. skater Ilia Malinin landed in the free program. The 17-year-old skater from Reston, Virginia (situated near Washington D.C.) was the first skater ever to land this jump some weeks before at U.S. Classic in competition, but not as well executed as at Skate America.

Malinin has skating in his genes because both of his parents were competitive skaters for Uzbekistan around the year 2000. Tatiana Malinina even won the Grand Prix Final in the 1998/99 season as a single skater and was fourth at Worlds 1999. They named their son after her mother because the pronunciation Malinin is easier for Americans than Skorniakov. From time to time, he works with Rafael Arutunian in California as well. When he was asked if it is an advantage or a disadvantage to be trained by the parents, Malinin said, “It is a disadvantage because my parents don’t earn any money while working with me. They invest in me, but now I can hopefully win more prize money.”

Malinin competed his short program to “I Put a Spell On You” by Canadian singer Garou. In his combination, the quad Lutz was nearly under-rotated and the triple toe loop good. Then he fell on the quad toe loop, which had caused him problems already in practice. The triple Axel was very good, two of the three spins as well and the step sequence (level 3) excellent. The components were around 8.0. This resulted only in a fourth position, eight points away from first place. He commented, “When I was going into the program I was feeling really good. I was very excited because of everyone here, all the crowd cheering and I felt really excited and in the moment. As far as it went, it wasn't one of the best programs that I've wanted.”

He opened his free program to the soundtrack of “Euphoria” with this quad Axel which got mainly GOEs of +3 and +4 and 16.61 points, the highest number of points which the judges ever gave for one element without combination. The knowledgeable spectators screamed and gave him a huge applause. Three other clean quads and an under-rotated second quad Lutz plus four triples followed. He only fell on the triple Salchow at the end of a combination. Spins and steps were mainly very good as well and his components were around 8.3. This was enough to win clearly with 280.37 points. Malinin is the youngest man ever to win Skate America. Former U.S. skater Ashley Wagner, who was working for the media in Norwood, was one of many experts who thought that 12.5 points are not enough as base value for a quad Axel compared with 11.5 points as base value for a quad Lutz. It should be at least 14 points.

“I felt great, it was a really good skate. I’m still in shock,” Malinin later said. “I just know that I trusted my practice and it worked well. 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.”

Kao Miura from Japan came as alternate for Australian Brendan Kerry who finished his career. Miura finished second overall with 273.19 points. The 17-year-old national junior champion had won the Tango short program with six very good elements, including a stellar combination of quad Salchow and triple toe loop as well as a no less perfect quad toe loop. Only his change foot sit spin was a bit wobbly. “Today was very good. I was in top shape and my body moved as I wished”, he said. He fell on the quad loop which was his first element in the free to “The Beauty and the Beast.”  4T-3T and 4S were excellent, the second 4T good, but he stepped out of the first triple Axel.

Junhwan Cha from South Korea won the bronze medal with 264.05 points. During the pandemic and until now he has no longer trained in Toronto, but mainly with his Korean coaches from his childhood in Seoul and sometimes online with Brian Orser. But is a time problem because of the time shift of 11 hours. In his short program to a Michael Jackson medley his quad Salchow was outstanding, but he stepped out of the triple Axel. He had by far the highest components with an average of 8.9. He explained, “I had mistakes on my jumps, but I really tried my best. Because I have competition today I did not think about my birthday. But since the morning at the rink people congratulated me and it was a great experience for me to compete on my birthday. I am happy to skate well at Skate America with my Michael Jackson program.”

In the free he used a James Bond film medley. The quad Salchow again was outstanding, the quad toe loop a bit shaky, five triples very good, but he missed a triple Axel and a triple Salchow was downgraded. He said, “It was not perfect and it was not what I wanted but I’m quite satisfied. I learned a lot of things yesterday and today. I want to have more energy in my program.”

Daniel Grassl from Italy came fourth with 257.68 points. He left home and his longtime coach Lorenzo Magri in August and has trained in Norwood since. He wanted his new coach Alexei Letov to improve his jumping technique and at the age of 19 to live on his own, apart from his parents. But after Skate America he went back to Italy for a while, at least until after his second Grand Prix in three weeks in Britain because he felt homesick.

He performed a new short program to “Silhouette” by Aquilo and explained, “I had difficult moments with myself and I wanted something characteristic that represents all the difficulties I had. So I asked my choreographer Jason (Brown) if we can try something new and when we were at Japan Open we started the choreography. It is only one week old and I hope I did not forget and Jason (who was standing in the back and was laughing) will criticize me.” His technique has already improved a bit and he showed quad Lutz, triple Axel and a combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop without any mistake. In the free, he had quad Lutz and quad flip, but later went down on a triple Axel.

Roman Sadovsky of Richmond Hill near Toronto sits fifth with 225.41 points. His quad Salchows in both programs were very good, but he stepped out of the triple Axel and the triple Lutz in the short and therefore had no combination. In the free, three triples were good, but he made four mistakes. Wesley Chiu of Vancouver in British Columbia is on sixth position with 219.90 points. He popped the toe loop in the short, but three triple jumps were good. In the free he had one good and one shaky quad toe loop and four clean triples.

U.S. skater Liam Kapeikis, who trains in Richmond, British Columbia under Keegan Murphy, finished on 7th position with 219.60 points. He stepped out of the triple Axel in the short, but the triple flip and the combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop were good. In the free, he stepped out of four jumps, but five triples got pluspoints. He explained, "It was amazing. The skate was average, but putting that aside, it was so nice to be able to skate in front of such a large audience again – especially here at Skate America. It just created such a great experience that I can really learn from and grow from." Sena Miyake from Japan placed 8th with 215.74 points, Koshiro Shimada, also from Japan, came as alternate for World and Olympic silver medalist Yuma Kagiyuma who is injured, and finished 9th with 215.12 points.

Dinh Tran of Lake Forest in California, third American, finished on 10th place with 199.68 points. He had no correct short program combination after adding only a single toe loop to his triple Lutz, but the triple Axel was good. In the free, five triples had a good quality, but two were not clean. Mikhail Selevko from Estonia is 11th with 191.80 points and Donovan Carrillo from Mexico ended up 12th with 188.28 points after many mistakes in spite of performing a good quad toe loop in the free.