A year later, he was an unexpected star at the gala United States Figure Skating Championships18 years old Ilia Malinin he is a national champion.
The teenager couldn’t land another historic quadruple Axel and had to battle several jumping issues to clinch his maiden title on Sunday (January 29) and continue the podium momentum he built in the ISU Grand Prix Series when he won a pair of titles plus a bronze at Grand Prix Final.
Malinin has been the youngest U.S. men’s winner ever since Beijing 2022 Olympic champion Nathan Chen he won his first of six titles at the age of 17 in 2017.
He scored 177.38 points in the free skate for an overall score of 287.74.
Veteran Jason Brown, the 2015 event champion and two-time Olympian, mesmerized with the free skate, winning the silver medal with a total score of 277.31 (177.06 free). Brown spun on a sublime skate, only stumbling on the last jump, a triple flip. He received a thunderous standing ovation from the crowd at the SAP Center in San Jose.
This is Brown’s eighth national medal since 2014.
Polish Junior Champion 2015 Andrzej Torgaszew moved up from fifth place and won the bronze medal – his first in seniors – with a score of 256.56. He won the free skate with a score of 177.78.
After falling in Axel’s quad attempt, Malinin hit three more quads before landing a Lutz attempt in a double. Soon after, he doubled the loop of his fingers. He recovered, however, adding a triple Lutz, triple Axel and triple toe combination that secured the win.
“The goal was to win this title,” Malinin later told reporters. “I wanted to get a successful short program. I still have a lot of work to do. [This] is an educational experience. I like to compete because you find something you’re not good at and you put in the work and it just gets better over time.”
Earlier in the weekend, a 15-year-old Isabella Levito she won her first women’s singles title while also being the world pairs champion Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier won the second gold and Madison Chock and Evan Bates won the ice dance crown for the fourth time.
Malinin stops Brown, Torgashev
The 10-point cushion proved helpful for Malinin as his three-jump combination near the end of the program kept him in first place. Brown’s hesitation on his triple overturn in the late program also proved crucial.
Brown shook off the demons of his last visit to this building: in 2018 he finished sixth in the nationals – his worst finish in the last decade – and missed out on the US Olympic team.
He has not competed in the Grand Prix series and is training, focusing on show shows and competitions.
“It was my choice to come back here,” Brown said of his return to the SAP Center. “I wanted to rewrite my story. A big part of that was going back to San Jose…  the demons are gone.”
Torgashev won the free skate, showing a career by landing a quadruple to open, followed by eight triples, all marked with a positive GOE (Grade of Execution).
Due to injury, Torgashev hardly competed in the last two seasons. He was fifth at the 2020 U.S. Championships and then eighth at the World Junior Championships.
“[This feels] surreal,” said Torgashev. “I came out trying to do my best and what we had been training for and it all worked out. It’s a great feeling.”
Both Maxim Naumov and Jimmy Ma he moved up after the short program, jumping to fourth and fifth place respectively.