‘This was my time’: Malinin takes men’s figure skating crown with record performance

MONTREAL — The second Ilia Malinin took the ice on Saturday night, he decided he would try to play the ace up his sleeve. “I knew that this could be the best skate of my life,” he said. “Or it could go terribly wrong.

MONTREAL — The second Ilia Malinin took the ice on Saturday night, he decided he would try to play the ace up his sleeve.

“I knew that this could be the best skate of my life,” he said. “Or it could go terribly wrong.”

The self-proclaimed “Quad God” lived up to his nickname, spinning through the air and landing his patented quad axel to open his free program.

And the rest was history.

Malinin hit five more quad jumps cleanly to snatch the men’s singles crown and set a record at the world figure skating championships.

The 19-year-old American star scored an unprecedented free program mark of 227.79 while skating to the “Succession” soundtrack in the final performance of the worlds. That brought his total to 333.76 — more than 20 points above the rest of the field.

Olympic champion Nathan Chen, also of the United States, held the previous free program record of 224.92 set in 2019.

Malinin’s jaw-dropping display had fans in the Bell Centre seats cheering, gasping and gearing up for a standing ovation 15 seconds before his athletic feat was over.

By the time it finished, Malinin couldn’t stay on his feet. He dropped to the ice in disbelief and put his hands over the ecstatic expression on his face as applause rained down.

“To hear the crowd go wild when I didn’t even finish my program yet is just an incredible experience,” he said. “It was so amazing to me. I couldn’t even hold myself up, it was just that emotional to me.”

Malinin dethroned two-time defending world champion Shoma Uno of Japan, who fell to fourth (280.85) after missing two quad jumps to start his program. 

Yuma Kagiyama of Japan took silver (309.65) and Adam Siao Him Fa of France claimed bronze (284.39).

All they could do was tip their caps to what they’d just witnessed.

“It was amazing,” Siao Him Fa said.

“I put it all out there, I did as much as I could,” added Kagiyama. “What I really realized was, try as I might, I probably wouldn’t have been able to win this championship.”

Malinin wasn’t even feeling anywhere near his best in the weeks leading up to the worlds. He clarified Saturday that he’s been fighting a left foot injury that almost kept him out of the competition.

That was apparent in Thursday’s short program, where he put on a pedestrian showing by his standards and placed third.

But after hitting his quad axel Saturday and building momentum through the first few segments of the program, those concerns looked long gone.

By the time he reached the second half of it he was already pumping his fists in celebration mid-movement, well aware that he was on his way to something special.

“I felt right then and there that this was my time,” he said. “I had to just deliver the rest of the program.”

In case that wasn’t enough, Siao Him Fa put on an awe-inspiring performance of his own earlier in the competition, hitting four quad jumps and a backflip — for which he lost two points in the scoring but won many more with the impressed fans.

He vaulted up to third after a disastrous 19th-place finish in the short program, and waited two hours in the podium seats while the rest of the skaters finished.

“The two hours was a bit long,” he said. “I was starving.”

Kagiyama was no slouch either — he hit three quads and produced a season-best score.

But the night was about Malinin and his unparalleled showing. After hitting six quads, what could be next?

“I’ll leave it as a surprise, as always,” he said.

Earlier Saturday, 2022 Olympic champions Madison Chock and Evan Bates of the United States defended their ice dance world title. Canada’s Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier won silver and Italy’s Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri claimed bronze.

It was Montreal’s first time hosting the event since 1932. Boston will hold the 2025 competition.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 23, 2024.

Daniel Rainbird, The Canadian Press


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