Ilia Malinin fills skate shoes Nathan Chen All right.
The teenager, who made history, took first place on Friday (January 27) at the competition United States Figure Skating Championships in San Jose, California, at the SAP Center with a score of 110.36 – and one step closer to his first national title.
There was no quad Axel – they’re not allowed in the short program – but the 18-year-old didn’t need it, hitting a quad toe and triple toe loop combination to open, followed by a quad toe and triple Axel in his “I’m casting a spell on you” short program .
Malinin cast a spell on the crowd that gave him a standing ovation, his score only lower than the previous Chen, the reigning Olympic champion and six-time national champion, and Vincent Zhou (112.78 – 2022).
He was a two-time Olympian Jason Brown who skated right after Malinin, a veteran returning to the arena where he missed out on an Olympic candidacy in 2018, only to rejoin the team a year ago.
It’s been since that event – Beijing 2022where he finished sixth – that the 28-year-old Brown competed, but the fluid, ethereal skating veteran didn’t miss a beat, recording his fourth consecutive over-100 in the short program at the nationals, finishing second behind Malinin on 100.25 .
Tomoki Hiwatashi, the 2019 junior world champion, is third with a score of 85.43. Missed the citizens a year ago because of Covid-19.
“I am very surprised at how I was able to achieve this,” Malinin told reporters after the brief. “Especially considering how the short program went at the start of the season. We took some time to revamp the program and looked at what went well and what didn’t.”
He added of his mindset on the ice: “I sort of forget where I am. I just perform… [I know] everyone has expectations of me, but I think of it as practice [environment]. I try to stick to that and try to show who I am.”
Malinin, Brown wow the crowd one by one
The crescendo of the men’s competition came midway through the final group with Malinin riding behind Hiwatashi and just ahead of Brown.
A year ago, the teenaged Malinin stunned the American field by winning a silver medal in Nashville, but in 2023 he arrived as a firm favourite, winning both Grand Prix stops and claiming a bronze medal at last month’s race. Grand Prix Final.
He didn’t flinch though, detailing his mental approach above. On Sunday (January 29), he will look to become the youngest men’s winner for the first time since Chen’s inaugural title in 2016.
Malinin told about his work with the choreographer Shae Lynn Bourne he helps his other – artistic – sign, trying to complete his repertoire on the ice.
“We’ve taken a completely different approach this season,” said Malinin of focusing on elements of his program, scoring 46.63. “I only focus on myself… [I like to] go fully with how I perform.”
Brown (who scored a near-perfect 49.84 for his components) is making his 12th Nationals, making his debut in 2010 and winning the title in 2015. But it’s 2018 that has haunted him for the past half-decade as he faltered to finish sixth in San Jose and was kicked out of the U.S. Olympic team after being on it Sochi 2014.
He said before the event that part of his return to San Jose was defeating the demons he felt in that arena.
“I talked about this moment with my sports psychologist, which seems to have been repeating itself for the past five years,” Brown explained. “There are triggers everywhere. That said, I showed up today and felt different. I am a different person; I’m in a different place.”
He continued: “I was shocked that I didn’t feel energized at all. Maybe it’s because I got the job done – I felt light and happy and proud of the person I’ve become through all the setbacks, rather than letting that fear overwhelm me.”
Brown tries to combine exhibition skating with competitive training. He did not participate in the Grand Prix series.
“What Ilia is doing and the way she is pushing the sport is amazing, but I can’t keep up,” admitted Brown.
It was also a redemptive skate for Hiwatashi, who was eliminated from the nationals a year ago. Liam Kapeikis and Andrzej Torgaszew rounded out the top five, both skaters had previous top 10 finishes at the World Junior Championships.