I’m telling you now: Start learning Ilia Malinin’s name. Learn not just how to recognize it on the page or the screen, but how to say it. Remember all the vowels and the consonants and get it so that it just rolls off your tongue, like you can casually say it to a friend at a bar. You will need this skill soon, perhaps very soon, because Malinin is just 17 years old and is already out in these ice skating rinks throwing down and making history. He is, as my former colleague Kalyn Kahler predicted, someone to keep your eye on. Or more appropriately—in the cold light of the Sunday morning after he continued to make history—someone you should be prepared to scream your whole head off for, as Tara Lipinski did on Saturday night.
Saturday night, Malinin took to the ice in Skate America and landed the vaunted quadruple axel. He didn’t just land it. He floated it. He made the quad axel look easy, balletic. And he landed it before a massive crowd in a major competition, as Skate America is the first of competition on the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating. Lipinski screamed, the crowd went roared, and somehow, through all the bedlam and the adrenaline, Malinin kept skating.
What makes—or perhaps I should say made—the quad axel so elusive is pretty straightforward. A full quad axel requires four and a half rotations to be completed from a forward takeoff. (For reference, Nathan Chen blew away the rest of the competition for gold at the Beijing Olympics with five quads, but no quad axel.) That’s a lot of turns in a short amount of time and a skater must land it cleanly, of course. For a lo-fi but effective visualization, check out the Walter Cronkite of figure skating, Jackie Wong, demonstrating how many rotations that is while safely on solid ground.
This was not Malinin’s first time landing it in an official competition. That happened last month at the U.S. Classic in Lake Placid, N.Y., though that was not a Grand Prix event, and as such, featured a relatively a minuscule crowd. Saturday night was the complete opposite: a major competition, a packed house, with Lipinski and her broadcast partner Johnny Weir on the call.
The judges rewarded Malinin for his historic feat.
It almost feels like an unnecessary postscript to note that Malinin won the competition but, yes, he did. You can find the entire schedule for the rest of the Grand Prix events here. And, look, I’m not saying you need to add all this to your busy life. I get it. So perhaps I’ll let this instant-reaction shot from Wong and Ashley Wagner speak for itself.