2024 Prevagen U.S. Figure Skating Championships: Men
Ilia Malinin stormed to gold in Columbus, Ohio, on Sunday, defending his U.S. National title. Malinin’s win was a near 30-point margin over the rest of the field. Jason Brown won silver, his ninth national medal, while Camden Pulkinen snagged the bronze.
Malinin skated his “Malagueña” short program with finesse, earning 108.57. This was thanks, in part, to a grand quad Lutz-triple toe and solid triple Axel. In first place, he also earned the night’s highest program components scores which brought the defending champion great satisfaction.
“I try to focus on that area specifically,” he said.
Malinin had been struggling with new boots in training the last few weeks and said he felt he had “lost a lot of coordination.” Accordingly, he reverted to his old skate boots from the Grand Prix Final for Columbus.
Skating to music from Succession, Malinin opened his free skate with a crisp quadruple Axel and landed two more quads. However, he doubled the loop, fell on the quad Lutz and doubled the toe. In his last jumping pass, the 2023 World bronze medalist executed a gritty triple Lutz-triple Axel-triple toe sequence. This was worth 21.28 points alone, including the positive grades of execution (GOE). While his spins were all recognized as level fours, his step sequence was a level three. The judges rewarded him with a free skate score of 185.78 and total score of 294.35.
“It was a fun skate,” the 19-year-old said afterwards. “Especially with all the problems I had in the past week with old boots. So, it’s just, you know, I was happy to get through it.”
“The main problem was just the boots,” he explained. “I mean, not even just today, this whole week. It was just my main concern and just going into this competition, I wasn’t really sure how I was going to perform. But I’m not really disappointed in my performance here because of course with the issues I had. I’m still very happy with how I was in other stuff and other things like my components. I’ve definitely seen a huge improvement with just the cleanliness of my program, connecting to the audience, connecting to the judges. I’ve noticed a lot of improvement in myself.”
Malinin said he has a new pair of boots awaiting him to break in and use at the Montreal when he returns to training.
After receiving the loudest ovation of the day, Brown skated his short program to “Adiós” with his signature style, but shockingly tumbled on the opening triple Axel. He received 89.02 points, buoyed by his level four spins and step sequence as well as an impressive triple Lutz-triple toe.
“I felt the love,” said the popular skater regarding the palpable crowd support throughout his warmup and performance. “Besides that opening jump, I was really happy with it. Really pleased with it. Never great to start with the fall. I’m never gonna tell you that it’s ideal but, I think it’s such a great learning experience to not let it faze you. Get up and keep going. That’s the sport. So yeah, disappointed in that but, really happy with the rest of it.”
Brown resurrected his compelling free skate from last year to “The Impossible Dream.” He managed a clean triple Axel-double Axel sequence to start followed by another triple Axel and five more clean triples. His only noticeable error in the program was a single Axel. He was rewarded with level-four on his spins and footwork. He earned 175.48 points in the free skate for a total competition score of 264.50 to win the silver medal.
Brown said he was not aware of or stressed by the tight men’s race behind Malinin following the short program.
“At this point in my career, I was really focused on the performances,” he said. “I did not know the scores going into it. I don’t know the scores going out of it. But I just focused on trying to be the best that I could and hopefully get the audience of the performance to remember.”
Brown made the decision to abandon his “Tarzan” free skate and pull the “Impossible Dream” out of cold storage when his choreographer, Rohene Ward, observed changes recently that Brown had made. Ward expressed concern to Brown that certain musical highlights were no longer captured by the adjustments.
“He felt like the integrity of the program was declining,” Brown said. At Ward’s suggestion, given the limited time to rework the “Tarzan” routine, Brown went back to last year’s program.
“I’m really happy with that choice,” Brown said, beaming.
A clean short program by Pulkinen, complete with a quad toe and triple Axel, was satisfying for the skater. He scored 87.92 for fifth place.
The 23-year-old executed a triumphant skate to Tosca in which he landed a smooth quad toe and six clean triple jumps with style. The 2022 Golden Spin of Zagreb champion’s only mistake was a single Salchow after the triple Axel. He scored 174.43 in the free skate to win 262.33 points overall and his first national medal: the bronze.
“I’m overall just happy with how I skated,” he said. “I’m happy to be on the podium. To finally put together two complete programs here, which was honestly the goal so, I can’t really complain too, too much.”
“I definitely knew that after the short that is was a tight race,” he said of the two-point spread between second and fourth. “I think knowing that it’s always good to know that we have, first off, a really strong group of guys that are keeping the race close. I think that’s what the audience likes to see, is a tight race.”
Finally stepping onto the podium at his sixth national appearance holds particular satisfaction for Pulkinen who was fifth at the 2022 World Championships.
“Coming off of a lot of fantastic skating outside of U.S. championships, I think I kind of struggled a bit in the past with dealing with the pressure. Like, ‘alright, you’re supposed to be on the podium just by empirical data.’ Or ‘by where your points should stack you up, you should be on the podium.’ I think I’ve struggled with the last ever since I’ve been senior, to be honest. So, this is kind of feels really good to me because its finally a time that I delivered at the U.S. Championships. So, it’s just another box that I’m checking off in my overall career trajectory and goals in skating.”
An inspired short program by Maxim Naumov set to the tender music of “Glimpse of Us” earned 88.72 points. The routine was highlighted by a secure quad Salchow that was awarded +2.77 GOE. Last year’s pewter medalist, Naumov turned heads by finishing second behind Malinin. Apart from the quad, he squeaked out the triple Axel with a squirrelly landing and managed a sturdy triple Lutz-triple toe, after which he pumped his fist.
The skater said he overcame nerves and expectations to deliver the performance and wanted to keep the short program result in perspective since the free program was still to come.
“I’m trying to control my emotions, but I feel pretty damn good,” he said, grinning.
Skating on Sunday after Brown, Naumov steadily executed the first four jump elements of his Tosca free skate. This included a quad Salchow and triple Axel-double Axel sequence. While he tumbled on the triple Axel, he landed a total of six clean triple jumps. He placed fourth in the free skate and slipped off the podium to fourth overall (170.78/ 260.50).
“I feel good,” the 22-year-old said afterwards. “I mean, I was just staying as focused as I possibly could. I was just, you know, trying to stay in the zone. It’s good practice to hear a really high score and the crowd going crazy. I get that high pressure, high stakes environments. So, I was able to kind of cool it, keep it under control and remember why I’m here. I’m relieved with how everything went. And that little tiny mistake, it definitely cost me, but you know, I’m so glad I went for it. I’d rather go for it and follow through than not go for it and wonder what happened if I did.”
Andrew Torgashev skated a clean and dynamic short program highlighted by an expressive step sequence executed with intensity. The 2023 national bronze medalist showed committment in his routine to “L’enfer” and scored 88.02 points. He opened with a sublime triple Axel and showed patience in landing the triple flip-triple toe and secure triple Lutz.
“I’m just psyched to be here,” he said. “The Axel was nice in the beginning. Flip toe, I was struggling with it a bit at home, but seem to have found that. That was quite the beast to conquer it there. So, that was good for me. I really just went out trying to perform this program the best; maybe create a moment at the championships. So, I just tried to really put my heart out there and you know, if anyone felt it, great.”
He said afterwards that he wanted to show the raw emotion of the loneliness embodied by the lyrics which explained his sustained ending pose. Torgashev stood stoically for more than ten seconds after his music ended.
A back injury sustained before Skate America meant he needed to omit the quadruple. “It was a nice program,” he added. “Due to some circumstances, I changed the difficulty.”
Torgashev struggled in his free skate to “Void of Madness” by to score 151.19 and a total competition score of 239.21. Still rebounding from his back injury, the artistic skater attempted a quad toe but doubled it.
“We just didn’t want to give up,” he said. “Wasn’t easy. Definitely was feeling, like, the taxation of the week today, but yeah, I did what I could. I would have liked to get a few more run throughs under my belt in practice, but it’s okay. I’ll never give up. I think just by being here is a statement that I’ll never give up. Never will I let myself be counted out.”
He finished in fifth place and is headed to China for the upcoming Four Continents.
Skating to “Hernando’s Hideaway” in his short program, Jimmy Ma took a tumble on the quadruple toe and put his hand down on the landing of the triple Axel. He otherwise skated with panache. He scored points 76.54 points and was frustrated afterwards.
“It’s about kind of learning to handle it,” he said of the nerves and errors. “Today, I didn’t handle it well. So, you know, it’s that something that I should have figured out a long time ago, but I’m still trying to. I’m a little behind the curve on that.”
The 28-year-old skated a brilliant, animated free skate set to Phantom of the Opera. The new program is only a month old. He opened with a sturdy quad toe and landed six clean triples in total. He scored 162.03 and received a standing ovation from the audience to finish the competition in sixth place with a total score of 238.57. After the exhilarating performance, Ma dropped to the ice and ranted.
“I’ve been trying to hold down a lot of emotion,” he said after. “I’ve been trying to really keep a level head and a level heart throughout this whole season. With a nice kind of skates in these kinds of circumstances and like this kind of music, you kind of have to let the floodgates open.”
Ma shared that he is committed to competing for two more years towards the Olympic Games.
Yaroslav Paniot skated a brilliant free skate to Queen to rise from 12th after the short program to seventh overall with 233.17 points.
Tomoki Hiwatashi dropped from sixth after the short program to eighth overall with 230.80 points.