Commanding the ice again after recent crash, Ilia Malinin wins world junior breakaway gold – OlympicTalk

When you choose “quadg0d” for an Instagram handle, the hubris factor kicks in.

it did for Ilia Malinin in the free skate at the World Championships last month, when the skating gods reminded him that the ice is slippery for mortals who try to navigate it divinely on thin blades.

So Malinin found himself reassured to get back on solid footing by winning the World Junior Championships in a wild ride on Saturday in Tallinn, Estonia.

“I’m relieved to have finished the season really, really well,” Malinin said.

He did so with junior records in the short program (88.99), free program (187.12) and total (276.11), beating the silver medalist Mikhail Shaidorov of Kazakhstan by 41.80 points. This was more than double the previous largest winning margin, 19.12, per Adam Ripon of the United States in 2009.

And Malinin did it with four fully spun quadruple jumps, resuming his dazzling free skate at the United States Championships, when his silver medal sparked controversy after he was not selected for the Olympic team. .

Malinin’s omission by American figure skating, justified by the criteria in place, seemed even more validated when he lost in freestyle at the World Championships in Montpellier, France, last month, dropping from fourth place after the short in ninth place in the final standings.

“It was a little shocking,” Malinin said.

While it’s impossible to use his performances at the senior or junior world championships as an ex post facto measure of what Malinin might have done at the Olympics, his skating on Saturday indicated that what he did at the championships national was not unique.

“I started working on consistency and trying to skate cleanly at every competition,” Malinin said.

He only had one small problem in Tallinn, a rough landing on a free quad lutz that earned him his only negative execution score (-.82) in both programs. He could have won easily with a less demanding free but laid the groundwork for next season with all four quads.

“We decided to stick to the plan which was our original plan since the start of the season,” Malinin said. “We intended that if I started doing well with four quads, next season I could add more.”

Even with one less scoring element than in the senior free skate, Malinin’s technical score (104.34) on Saturday was higher than all but three other skaters this season – Olympic medalists, Nathan Chen from the United States and Yuma Kagiyama and Shoma Uno from Japan.

Malinin, 18, of Vienna, Va., became the third American to win the world junior title in the last five championships, joining Tomoki Hiwatashi (2019) and Vincent Zhu (2017). Last year’s world juniors were canceled due to the pandemic.

He is entering his first full senior season as the leader among the American men, since Chen, Zhou and Jason Brown seem unlikely to compete next season.

“This (performance) definitely gives me a lot of momentum and motivation,” he said.

Meanwhile, more than four months since his previous competition this season, Isabelle Levito of the United States picked up where it left off.

That previous event was the U.S. Championships, where she finished second in the free skate and third overall in her first senior nationals.

Even with a one-point time deduction, Levito actually topped his Nationals score by exactly one point with a career-best 72.50 to win Saturday’s short program by 3.12 over Jia Shin from South Korea.

The long gap between the events is due to the Covid-forced postponement and relocation of this world juniors, which was to be held in Bulgaria five weeks ago.

Levito, who turned 15 in early March, felt the delay worked both ways for her.

“It was good for training my jumps and programs to be better,” Levito said. “It was definitely a bit more difficult for me to have it postponed. I was ready for it to happen a bit sooner.

Levito won the court with the refined quality of his pirouettes and step sequences for Camille Saint-Saëns“The Swan”, earning four maximum execution ratings (+5) and 17 ratings of +4 for these elements. The ballet feel of several moments was striking and she had a more than two point advantage in the component scores.

Another South Korean, Ahsun Yunfinished third (66.28), a hair ahead Lindsay Thorngren from the United States (66.14).

With no Russian skaters indefinitely barred from International Skating Union events as punishment for their country’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, Levito is in a good position to become the first American to win junior world championships since Rachel Flatt In 2008.

Russian women have won the last four world junior titles, nine of the last 10 as well as seven silver medals during this period. They would have been favored again this season.

“I think they’re really good skaters, and they inspire a lot of athletes and push the sport forward and push everybody to try a little bit harder,” Levito said when asked if it was strange to don’t compete against them.

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at every Winter Olympics since 1980, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com.

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