Home Figure Skating News Ilia Malinin soars to new heights in Montreal

Ilia Malinin soars to new heights in Montreal

by Paula Slater
Krystal Yeung
Ilia Malinin soars to new heights

(L-R) Yuma Kagiyama (JPN), Ilia Malinin (USA) and Adam Siao Him Fa (FRA) pose with their medals at the 2024 World Figure Skating Championships.

2024 World Figure Skating Championships: Men

USA’s Ilia Malinin soared to new heights with his record-breaking free skate in Montreal on Saturday night. He won the gold medal with 24.11 to spare, improving from his third-place finish last season. Yuma Kagiyama of Japan won his third straight silver medal at this event, while Adam Siao Him Fa of France catapulted from 19th to snatch the bronze.

Ilia Malinin

The 2023 World bronze medalist was phenomenal in his short program to “Malaguena,” displaying crisp movements throughout while producing a quad toe (+3.66 GOE), quad Lutz-triple toe (+3.29 GOE) and triple Axel. The footwork also received high grades of execution (GOE), but was graded a level three while the spins were a level four. He finished third with 105.97 points going into the free skate.

“I am very happy with the skate today!” said Malinin. “I know I could have performed a lot better.”

The 19-year-old said that he had some injuries recently but didn’t disclose what they were.

“Coming here was hard,” he said. “It wasn’t clear if I was able to come to worlds. The final decision to come here was made last week. I am feeling a lot better. The vibe of the event and the adrenalin certainly help.”

“I was not able to see Yuma and Shoma skate, but I heard their scores, and I am super proud of them!” the skater added. “We are all friendly with each other and get along well.”

The national champion brought the house down with a total of six flawless quadruple jumps in his free skate to music from the Succession soundtrack. He opened with a quadruple Axel, quad Lutz, quad loop and quad Salchow.

“Hearing the crowd cheer more and more and just feeling that energy, especially in the second half after the footwork, I was able to get a breather,” he reflected. “I felt right then and there that this was my time. I had to just deliver the rest of the program and it just kept going and going and I didn’t even realize what was going on. I was just flying through the program, and it was just amazing to hear.”

He then showed a level-four spin and very good footwork before tackling a quad Lutz-Euler-triple flip. He followed that up with a quad toe-triple toe and triple Lutz-triple Axel sequence. The crowd roared and clapped throughout, and the skater fell to the ice at the end, exhausted.

“I just wanted to give my most the last few seconds of the program,” he explained. “To deliver it and put it in my all and after that program, it was so amazing to me. I couldn’t even hold myself up, it was just that emotional to me.”

He scored 227.79 points for his efforts, the highest score since Nathan Chen’s long program at the 2019-20 Grand Prix Final. His total score was 333.76.

Malinin acknowledged that the past few weeks had been a “mental and physical challenge” for him and wasn’t even sure he would compete.

“I’m in shock right now,” said Malinin. “It means so much to me. I am so glad to be here and be here on top right now. But I got through it. I trusted my training and my parents, my coaches, my team… they really helped me get through. And I’m just so glad I was able to achieve it here.”

“There was a little voice in my head ‘no matter what, you have to keep fighting,'” he added. “You have to keep going, no matter how bad or how good you feel, you just have to know what you’re capable of and stick to your muscle memory and the training you’ve been through.

The skater said that he didn’t feel confident in the warm-up going for the quad Axel.

“But when I stepped on the ice the second time to prepare to get in my starting position, I definitely felt that, you know, I want to end this competition and I want to go for it for the last time this season,” he said. “So, I just attacked it 100% and I’m glad I was able to achieve it.”

Yuma Kagiyama

The 2022 Olympic silver medalist made a huge statement with his superb short program to “Believe” by Imagine Dragons. He opened with a quad Salchow (+3.60 GOE) and followed up a quad toe-triple toe (+3.39 GOE). He went on to land a triple Axel and displayed very good level-four spins and footwork throughout, placing a close second with 106.35 points.

“At first, I was 20 percent nervous and 80 percent excited for my skate,” said Kagiyama. “But even in my practice, I try to train and skate as if it is for a competition. So, I was well prepared for the competition, and I was not too worried about the event. When my name was called, all the pressure disappeared and I felt so happy to be able to skate, especially because I was not able to compete for one year due to my injury.”

“The audience was so warm and supportive to me during my skate, and I was able to skate with a positive mindset thanks to them,” he continued. “At the end of my skate, I was very happy and excited about my performance and then I turned around to see all the people standing and cheering for me, which made me even happier. Before my skate, my coaches told us to stay focused and just skate as usual.”

The 20-year-old showed lots of expression in his free skate to “Rain, in Your Black Eyes,” earning the second highest program components behind Jason Brown. He landed an excellent quad Salchow (+3.88 GOE), quad flip (+4.56 GOE) and quad toe-Euler-triple Salchow (+3.66 GOE). He went on to land a triple Axel-double Axel sequence, but then took a fall on a solo triple Axel. The 2023-24 Grand Prix Final bronze medalist quickly recovered to land three more triple jumps and displayed strong level-four spins and footwork throughout. He picked up a new season’s best of 203.30, placing third in the free skate. With a total score of 309.65, he maintained second place overall.

“I really wanted to show everything I have today,” said Kagiyama. “The warm cheers from the audience supported me throughout my performance. Although there was a mistake, I was able to deliver an almost perfect performance today. I am pretty happy about that!”

“I am thinking already long term and am aiming to improve and do even better next season,” he continued. “I am also looking ahead already to the 2026 Olympics.”

Kagiyama said he watched Siao Him Fa’s free skate and felt a “little bit of a threat.”

“It motivated me to do my best and aim for the podium myself,” he said. “I saw the second half of Ilia’s performance. I don’t think I can win against him. I want to improve in every way in order to catch up with him. I want to get two new programs, and also improve my technical.”

The skater from Nagoya sustained an injury to his left foot at the beginning of last season. He sat out the entire season except for 2022-23 Japanese nationals against his father’s advice.

“I was probably at 50 percent of my abilities when I was competing in France,” he said of the Grand Prix where he placed third earlier this fall. “The thought for me was this season there’s no way I’m going to be able to catch up to them. The process of recovery went faster than I thought. So, all the way to these Worlds, it brought me to be able to aim for victory at this competition. From now on, I want to try and get closer and closer to the top and that’s what my plan is.”

Adam Siao Him Fa

The two-time European champion had an uncharacteristic short program, struggling throughout with the jumps. He stepped out of his opening quad Lutz and had to fight for the landing of a triple Axel. He then underrotated and fell on a quad toe that was meant to be a combination jump. He sat in 19th (77.49) place going into the free skate.

“It is very difficult right now,” said the 23-year-old. “I was ready, I was never as well prepared. It is difficult to say what happened. It is very disappointing. What happened, happened. I have to move on. Mentally I felt ready. I believed in myself. I need to take step back and think about it. Worlds was the biggest competition for me this season.”

However, the two-time national champion rebounded with a fantastic free skate choreographed by Benoit Richaud. Siao Him Fa opened with a quad Lutz (+3.61 GOE), quad toe-triple toe (+2.31 GOE) and a triple Axel-double Axel sequence. He went on to land a solid quad Salchow (+3.19 GOE) and quad toe (+3.26 GOE) and three more clean triple jumps. Two spins and his footwork were graded a level four and he scored 206.90 for second place in the free skate. With a total score of 284.39, he and rocketed to third place overall.

“I am very satisfied today,” Siao Him Fa said. “I think this was kind of the best performance of my life. I was really angry yesterday and frustrated with myself after the short program. My coaches told me to fight and attack. I remembered Nathan’s (Chen) performance at the Olympics and that also helped me a lot.”

“This competition had a lot of ups and downs and so many emotions,” he summed up. “I didn’t at all expect to win a medal. It gives me a lot of motivation going into next season.”

His illegal back flip cost him a two-point deduction, but that didn’t affect his overall standings. He said he decided to do it because he felt he had done his job and wanted to give something to the public.

“It did cross my mind that maybe two points might matter in the end,” he admitted. “The two-hour wait was actually really long, I was starving. I didn’t actually think of the chance of winning a medal. I just realized it when Shoma’s score came up.”

Shoma Uno

Japan’s Shoma Uno laid down an extraordinary short program to music from Everything Everywhere All at Once. He opened with an excellent quad flip which garnered +4.56 grades of execution (GOE) before landing a quad toe-triple toe and triple Axel. All spins and footwork were graded a level four and were also rewarded with high GOEs, and the two-time Olympic medalist earned a season’s best of 107.72.

“I’m glad that all of my hard work paid off and I was able to perform well today,” said Uno. “I felt really well while skating and the audience was great! They pushed me to skate and perform even better. Although my combination was not the best I could have done, my first jump received very high marks, which helped me to get a high score overall.”

The skater went on to say that he was very “grateful” to his to Stéphane Lambiel who choreographed his program.

“The top skaters’ scores are so close, so I would like to do my best in the free program,” Uno summed up. “When I saw Yuma skate, I felt that I thought there might be a generational shift, but I’m glad I was able to catch up with him.”

However, the two-time world champion struggled in his free skate, falling on his opening quad loop and landing a quad flip on the quarter. He also put a hand and foot down on a triple Axel-Euler-triple flip in the second half and received another one-point deduction for a time violation. But he did produce two quad toes and displayed quality spins and footwork throughout. He scored 173.13 for sixth place in the free skate and slipped off the podium to fourth overall (280.85).

“I was satisfied with my training coming into this event and satisfied with my short program,” said Uno. “It would have been nice if the event would have ended after the short program, then I would be fully satisfied. I wish I would have made Stéphane happy today.”

The 25-year-old says he has yet to make a decision on whether he will continue skating for another season.

Jason Brown

USA’s Jason Brown fully embodied Benjamin Clementine’s “Adiós,” using every nuance to his advantage in the short program. After a subpar warmup, the two-time Four Continents medalist landed a solid triple flip, triple Axel and triple Lutz-triple toe. All spins and footwork were graded a level four and received very high GOEs. He placed fourth with a season’s best of 93.87.

“The reaction of the crowd was so overwhelming and amazing!” said the national silver medalist. “I was already excited before the skate even started. I am always nervous, but I try not to show it. The Challenger in Warsaw was a wakeup call for me. I had to re-group, make some changes, like going back to my old free program. That was a huge weight of my chest. I also took a break as I didn’t really take a break all summer and spring.”

The national silver medalist delivered an exquisite free skate to “The Impossible Dream.” The only errors came when he landed the back end of a triple flip-Euler-triple Salchow on the quarter and later popped a double Axel. Otherwise, he landed a total of seven clean triple jumps, including a triple Lutz-triple toe and triple Axel. All spins and footwork were excellent, earning a level four and many GOEs. He finished fifth in the free skate with a new season’s best of 180.46, placing fifth overall (274.33).

“I feel super good,” said the 29-year-old. “This crowd was amazing! To have that reception from the audience filled me up with so much gratitude and excitement to just get out there to perform.”

“I think what helped me a lot for this competition was skating in shows so much all over the world, twice a day, in all time zones,” he added. “This really made me ready to be ready in the right moment. Top five at worlds? I’ll take it!”

Brown said the first thing he’s going to do after he leaves Montreal is start working on new programs.

“Last year, I toured all spring and didn’t take a break,” he explained. “Right now, I’m going back to create new pieces for next season, getting a jump start. I’ll see you guys next year!”

Lukas Britschgi

Switzerland’s Lukas Britschgi placed fifth after the short with a new personal best of 93.41 for his bluesy and funky routine to “I’m in the Mood for Love” and “Superstition.” The 26-year-old landed a quad toe-triple toe, triple Axel and triple Lutz, all of which received positive GOEs. Two spins and the footwork were graded a level four.

“It’s amazing to let this short program that I liked so much go with a skate like this,” said Britschgi. “Everything came together at the right moment. I am super happy! I was maybe a little bit less stressed than at Europeans.

Britschgi shared that he is nursing an injury to his left knee and says the Salchow is irritating it.

However, there was no sign of that in his free skate. The 2023 European bronze medalist nailed a quad toe-triple toe and quad toe from the start. He followed up with five more clean triple jumps, including two triple Axels. The spins and footwork all received a level four, and he was rewarded with a new personal best of 180.68 for fourth place. With a total score of 274.09, he finished in a very close sixth place.

“I am super happy! I feel amazing!” said Britschgi. “To end the season with two personal bests. To be in the top six in the world. I never thought that would be possible, but I have surprised myself before!”

He plans to take a break to spend time with friends and family before working on two new programs for next season.

“Also maybe trying new quads, we will see,” he said, adding that Malinin’s free skate “blew his mind.”

Deniss Vasiljevs

Deniss Vasiljevs of Latvia gave a very good performance in his expressive short program to “Hallelujah.” The 2022 European bronze medalist was mistakenly presented as “Lukas Britschgi” when he took the ice, eliciting a big smile from him, thus warming the audience. He produced a triple Lutz-triple toe, triple flip and triple Axel. The only error was an edge call on the flip, but the spins and footwork all garnered a level four. He placed eighth with a season’s best of 89.42.

“I feel overwhelmed and full of joy!” said the 24-year-old. “I found the joy during the warm-up. We have to enjoy these wonderful moments and I am so happy I did today. I feel like today I really connected with the crowd and the wonderful people in this arena.”

“This song to me is about the mystery of love,” the skater explained of his short program. “I can deeply connect with it as this year I lived through the wonders and sadness of love. Without these experiences I wouldn’t have been able to skate the program like I did today. I thought about that today during the step sequence, maybe even a bit too much. I lived the moment and I love it.”

Vasiljevs gave had a good free skate to music from The Lion King, but it was not without errors. He doubled a planned quad Salchow and landed a triple loop and the backend of a triple Lutz-Euler-triple Salchow on the quarter. He also received an edge call on a triple flip, but still scored a new season’s best of 168.38 for eighth place. He finished seventh overall (257.80).

“I feel good,” he said. “I was really stressed all day and was like ‘can I already go?’ As this is a new program, I still need to figure out how it feels in competition. But I am overall very satisfied. The reaction of the crowd made me very excited.”

“It was a rough season for me,” he summed up. “I am glad it’s over, but great to end it like this. I haven’t made up many plans yet for next season. I feel like I want to have some time off now and experience life not as a figure skater. I will defend my master’s thesis in summer. Also, I haven’t decided yet if I will keep this free skate for next season.”

Rounding out the top 10

Japan’s Kao Miura left many points on the table after missing his combo jump in the short. The 2023 Four Continents champion opened with an excellent quad Salchow (+4.02 GOE) but had to hang on to the triple Axel. He then fell on a quad toe and appeared to be zapped of energy throughout the rest of the routine. He finished 10th (85.00).

“I put all my effort into preparing for this competition,” said the 18-year-old. “I wanted to put in 100% as this was my first World Championship. Because of this preparation, I ended up getting the score I received today. I will forget what just happened in the short program and just go into the free with a clean slate.”

The 2023 World Junior champion fell twice (quad loop and quad Salchow) in his free skate to music from Attack on Titan. He produced a quad toe and quad toe-triple toe, the latter receiving +3.26 GOEs, but the mistakes were costly. He finished seventh in the free skate (169.72) and eighth overall (254.72).

“There isn’t much to say about today’s free program,” said Miura. “After reflecting on my short program, I realized I should have given it my all in today’s free program, but unfortunately, I didn’t achieve the result I had hoped for. I feel bad for taking one of the three spots we had at the World Championships due to my poor performance.”

“Although I had planned to start the performance with a successful quad loop, I fell during the attempt, which affected the rest of my routine,” he explained. “It was surprising because I had been successfully landing it in practice. I couldn’t deliver the performance I had in mind. Despite this being my first world championships, I understand the need to practice hard and aim to win in the next season, especially with the Olympics approaching.”

Nikolaj Memola of Italy finished ninth overall with a total new personal score of 253.12.

“Overall, I am satisfied,” said the national champion. Top 10 at my first worlds, that is amazing! I was so relieved when the score came up because I knew I had secured the important two spots for Italy.”

Memola shared that he had recently injured his foot and that it was swollen when he came to Canada.

“But we sat down with Brian, Corey, my family and I debated whether I should participate at these World championships or not,” he revealed. “Maybe better give the spot to someone else. But they all were like, ‘No!’ I am glad I did it. You know what works for me: manifestation. Before I won the JGP Final, I manifested it the summer before. I also manifested my good result here. I told me I can do it. And I did it.”

The skater from Monza plans to work on two new programs and would like to try a new style. He mentioned he may work with Barbara Fusar-Poli on a new program, but it’s not certain yet.

Junhwan Cha of South Korea rounded out the 10 men with a total score of 249.65.

“I did everything I could,” said last year’s silver medalist. “I am not at 100 percent, but I did everything I could. The result was not great, but I didn’t give up. I couldn’t take a full rest yet after my injuries because I had nationals, Four Continents and Worlds. Now I can take a rest and I think everything will be fine.”

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