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Figure Skating

Keep Your Eye on Ilia Malinin

Sylvain Thomas/AFP via Getty Images

Let me introduce you to quadg0d, the 17-year-old American skater also known as Ilia Malinin. Malinin just won the junior world championships with record scores in the short program (88.99), free skate (187.12), and total score (276.11). His margin of victory was 41.80 points, which is totally unheard of, and more than twice the previous largest junior worlds winning margin.

Malinin landed four quad jumps in his free skate, just floating effortlessly on each one. His skating is so flowy and bendy, and I love watching him jump. He could have scaled back his technical difficulty and still won this competition, but he wanted to show he’s ready to add another quad jump to his free skate next season, which will be his first full senior season. If he can build on this and add a fifth quad, he’ll be able keep up with the best of the best senior men (Nathan Chen landed five quads in his free skate to win Olympic gold this year).

Malinin finished second at U.S nationals in January, and brought the Nashville crowd to their feet after both of his skates, but he wasn’t selected for the Olympic team. U.S. Figure Skating’s choice to leave Malinin off the team was controversial, because he had a significantly higher technical difficulty than Jason Brown, who was named to the team. The decision was in line with the criteria USFS lays out for how they choose Olympic teams (experience in senior-level international competitions is a big factor, and Malinin didn’t have it), but I still hated it.

Malinin was named to the senior World Championships team instead, but in an open field missing top competitors Chen and Yuzuru Hanyu, Malinin couldn’t match his standout nationals performance. He was downgraded on two of his quad attempts and dropped from fourth after the short program to ninth overall. It was a bummer, but, again, he’s only 17, and he was the youngest man to represent the U.S. in singles at the Worlds since 1966.

A few weeks after his senior worlds disappointment, he got his groove back and ended the season with this record-setting junior worlds performance. I love his short program music, an acoustic “Billie Jean,” and his cool biker gloves and bedazzled leather jacket to match.

Malinin is coached by his parents, who were both Olympic skaters for Uzbekistan, and Rafael Arutyunyan, who also coaches Chen.

I highly recommend following Malinin on Instagram, where he really lives up to his chosen Quad God name. He’s always posting some crazy combinations from practice sessions.

He is the future!