San Jose, California – Ilya Malinin He’ll obviously have mixed feelings when he remembers winning his first US Figure Skating title.
This was evident from his reaction after completing the free skate on Sunday.
The 18-year-old with unlimited potential and seemingly boundless confidence has been rocked by his worst free skate of the season.
He sadly shook his head. Then shake it again.
Of course, this was not the ski that I wanted, but there are always ups and downs, and after you just go through them and go further, – said Malinin.
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He planned the toughest technical program anyone has ever attempted, with six quadruple jumps and two challenging combinations in the second half of the four-minute program. And he kept trying bravely to execute it, even after blunders that would have left him second to surprise Andrew Torgashev in free skating.
Malinin (287.74 points overall) remains comfortable, ahead of Green Jason Brown (277.31). Torgashev came in third, with an average of 256.56 points.
Malinin skated with tenacity rather than the dynamism that infused his stellar short program on Friday, by far his best short program of the season.
“I think I was a little slow,” he said, “and I wasn’t prepared for what was about to happen.”
Malinin fell on his opening jump, quadruple axel, then hit three more quads flawlessly. He exploded two more planned quads into doubles, then turned his final jump pass, planned as a series of two jumps, into an unprecedented triple lutz triple axel triple toe. For context: Only Malinin did a triple Lutz axis sequence.
“I don’t think it’s not that I was planning too much,” he said. “I guess I wasn’t really prepared for that amount. And it was mostly because we were so focused on this short program.”
Brown, 28, who first competed with the seniors at 12 years old, skated great. Were it not for the fall on his recent ambitious free skating jump, or the triple flip that came off a slipping knee, Brown’s overall performance in both the short and free would have been as good as any he has done at the US Championships.
With his longevity and foresight, Brown, a two-time Olympian and seven-time national medalist (gold in 2015) was able to put what befell Malinin in careful perspective and encourage him not to lose faith in him.
Brown listened to Malinin’s press conference questions getting over what went wrong, both legitimate and expected, and wanted his younger teammate not to dwell on it.
“I did a triple lutz-triple axel-triple at the end of your program, and I did a knee roll and I could barely stand to do the core,” Brown told Malinin, sitting next to him in the podium.
“The way you keep pushing this sport is incredible. So you never stop being you.”
Malinin, an unexpected second-place finisher at last year’s championships, has come here under the spotlight brighter than anyone who has passed him, in large part due to his history-making success earlier this season as the first to land a quadruple axel in competition. .
Despite his disarming bravery, evidenced by the choice of quadg0d as his social media name, Malinin is not immune to the pressures of a major event and his favorite status.
“There’s a (necessary) amount of experience that takes time to get,” Brown said. “I’ve been through it all. I’ve had a lot of ups, I’ve had a lot of failures. Like I (Malinin) said, how do you take that experience and learn from it and grow from it. That’s what you’re going to do.”
Malinin and Brown will leave on Monday to play eight shows in three Swiss cities over the course of 11 days with the Art on Ice tour. Both are expected to be on the US team at the World Championships in March in Japan.
Malinin walks away with the title feeling satisfied that he didn’t take the slightest risk given his huge lead after the short program.
“This was an opportunity for me to try out this new design,” Malinin said. “Of course, it wasn’t any better. We’ll take advice from this and look worlds away.”
Philip Hirsch, who has covered snowboarding for the last 12 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com.
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