2023 Skate America: Men
USA’s Ilia Malinin, the self-proclaimed ‘quad god,’ took his second consecutive Skate America title in the Men’s discipline on Saturday night in Allen, Texas. Kevin Aymoz of France maintained second overall to win the silver in his first Skate America event, while Japan’s Shun Sato pocketed the bronze.
Malinin was rock solid on all his jumps in his short to “Malaguena.” His program featured a quad toe, quad Lutz-triple toe and triple Axel. All jumps were awarded with high grades of execution (GOE), in particular, the quad toe (+3.39). The footwork and both spins were graded a level four and were also awarded positive GOEs, and the 18-year-old scored a new season’s best of 104.06.
“I think it was one of my best performances of my career so far,” said the 2023 World bronze medalist. “It was such a good feeling to feel everyone go nuts during the end of my performance. I tried to find music this season that is a bit out of my zone. I wanted to go a different way, a new style that people wouldn’t expect me to skate to. We spent many hours with Shae-Lynn (Bourne) to adapt to this style and put a lot of effort into it.”
Malinin landed a total of four quads in his intense and brilliant free skate to the Succession soundtrack. The quads included a Lutz, Salchow, Lutz in combination with a Euler-triple Salchow, and toe in combination with a triple toe. He also produced four more clean triple jumps. All jumps were awarded with positive grades of execution (GOE), as were the level-four spins and footwork. He earned a new personal best in both the free skate (206.41) and total score (310.47). Both scores are the fourth highest scores in the Men’s discipline for the free skate and total.
“I didn’t expect this outcome,” Malinin admitted. “I really didn’t expect to pull it off like I did. I put in so many hours of training, tried to improve on everything and I am really happy with how I felt. Despite my good preparation, I was a little unsure how it was going to go before I stepped onto the ice today. I counted on my muscle memory.”
It was clear that his artistry has improved since last season.
“I looked at other skaters and their best performance like Nathan Chen and Yuzuru Hanyu,” he explained. “I picked up some moments from their programs and tried to put them into my own to see how it looks like. I aim to have more special awareness.”
Ilia also was able to learn from Kevin Aymoz as they were both in shows over the summer.
“He inspires me so much artistically,” said Malinin. “Through the time that we spent, the shows that we did together, it really inspired me to become better.”
His next Grand Prix event will be in Angers, France.
Aymoz didn’t have a great practice going into the short, but it worked out when it counted. He landed a quad toe-triple toe, triple Axel and triple Lutz in his routine to “Bird Gerhl.” The five-time national champion also displayed excellent level-four footwork and good level-four spins. All elements were rewarded with positive GOEs and he picked up a season’s best of 97.34 points. He also received the highest program component score of the group (45.86).
“I am very happy with my skate,” said Aymoz of the short program. “I was a bit upset with my practice, so I took the day to reflect on what happened. This program is very meaningful to me. It’s very emotional and I want to show these emotions and transfer them to the people.”
The 26-year-old gave a spellbinding performance to “Boléro” in the free skate with only a few minor mistakes. He landed the first jump of a triple Axel-double Axel on the quarter and put a foot down on the back end of a triple Axel-triple Salchow. The skater also received an edge call on the triple flip, but the opening quad toe was clean. Four triple jumps—Lutz-toe, loop, and Lutz— received positive GOEs, as did his level-four footwork and spins. The 2023 Autumn Classic silver medalist finished second in the free skate and overall (181.75/279.09).
“I want to thank everyone for this beautiful event and the audience was really fun,” he said. “I was really stressed today. My coaches told me to not jump off a cliff. I am really happy with how I skated today and I can’t wait to go back to work and see where this season is going!”
Aymoz admitted that he wasn’t too keen on the idea of skating to “Boléro” at first.
“My coaches wanted me to skate to it two years ago and I said, ‘Nah, it’s really boring.’ Then I went to the Paris opera, and I cried the entire 20 minutes when the piece was playing. When the curtain fell, I called my coaches and apologized to them that I said it was boring. A lot of skaters have skated to ‘Boléro’ and it was a challenge. I wanted to create something special.”
The Frenchman also talked about how he formed a connection with Malinin.
“We are not competing against each other, but we are competing with each other,” Aymoz explained. “And when I am going to a competition like Japan Open or Skate America, I am happy to see my friends. I was a lot more shy a few years back, didn’t really speak that much English, and I am so happy about the connections I built. I am 26 now, which is a little scary, and I am seeing all these young skaters coming with all these amazing skills. A lot of rotation in the air, like tornados, it’s really scary. But going to competitions together we really push each other!”
The five-time French champion will compete next in Espoo, Finland.
Sato picked up a new personal best of 91.61 points for third place with his short program to “Libertango” by Astor Piazzolla. The 2023 Four Continents bronze medalist easily executed a quad toe-triple toe and triple Axel. The only mistake was a step out on the landing of the quad flip. Both spins and footwork were graded a level four.
“I am very pleased with the levels on my spins and steps and that I was able to get level 4 on all,” said Sato. “I have been able to do this program better in practice, but for the first performance in the Grand Prix, this season it’s okay.”
However, the 19-year-old struggled with several jumps in his free skate to Four Seasons. He stepped out of a quad Lutz and quad toe and put his foot down on the back end of a quad toe-double toe. He landed a total of five clean triple jumps, including two triple Axels.
“I was glad to be able to finish on the podium here, but I was looking really tired in the second half of my program,” Sato admitted. “I hope to be in great shape for my second assignment in Finland.”
The 2023 Four Continents bronze medalist enjoyed working with Guillaume Cizeron on his new free skate in Canada.
“He was very nice and kind,” said Sato. “I think we built a very nice program. I am hoping to go there next year again. I am really looking forward to that!”
Sato will join Aymoz in Espoo, Finland, for his next Grand Prix event.
Georgia’s Nika Egadze placed fifth in both the short and free skate, but fourth overall (237.45). The skater, who is coached by Eteri Tutberidze, earned a new personal best of 85.76 for his short program to “Ava Maria.” In this segment, he fought for the landings of his quad Salchow-triple toe, quad toe and triple Axel. All of his spins and footwork were graded a level four.
“I am not quite pleased,” he said. “I know I can do them much better. I am really happy to be here though and to be able to show my program.”
In his free skate to music from Moulin Rouge, the 2023 Lombardia Trophy silver medalist landed his opening quad toe and quad Salchow-triple toe. He doubled the Salchow and Lutz, but landed a total of four triple jumps. All spins were graded a level four and he scored 151.69 points.
“I really like the audience here,” said the 21-year-old. “They are so warm and supportive! I managed to perform my program quite well, but some of my jumps didn’t happen today. Overall, I am happy. It was such a struggle to get the visa here and I am so glad I could make it. After struggling with injuries for such a long time I am glad I can do so many competitions now.”
He will fly to Kazakhstan for his third Challenger Series at the Denis Ten Memorial. Later this fall, he will compete at NHK Trophy for his second Grand Prix event.
In his first international event of the season, Vladimir Litvintsev of Azerbaijan moved up from eighth after the short (74.61) to fifth overall (237.44). The 22-year-old took a fall on an underrotated quad in his short to “Circle of Life,” but landed a triple Axel and triple flip-triple toe.
In his free skate to The Nutcracker, he stayed focused throughout only making two mistakes. The opening quad toe was good, but he put a foot down on the back end of a quad toe-triple toe and later underrotated the back end of a triple Axel-Euler-triple Salchow. In all, the skater landed five clean triple jumps and showed good footwork and spins. He finished third in this segment with 162.83 points.
“Yesterday I unfortunately couldn’t do the toe, but today I had a strong performance and could regroup!” said Litvintsev. “I had some problems with getting a visa and this is why I didn’t do any challenger events.”
The interesting “tiger” costume for his short program garnered much attention from the skating fans.
“It was not my idea, but we did it on purpose and now everybody is talking about it,” he laughed.
His next Grand Prix will be in Espoo, Finland.
Rounding out the top ten
Nozomu Yoshioka of Japan stood in fourth after a solid short program where he picked up a new personal best of 87.44 points. Unfortunately, the 2023 World Junior bronze medalist made some costly errors in the free skate where he placed seventh (146.12) and slipped to sixth overall. This was a solo Grand Prix event for the 19-year-old from Osaka.
“I am really disappointed with about the last half of the program,” the national junior champion said of his free skate. “I usually never do these mistakes. I lost my concentration. In general, it was a huge bonus to participate in Skate America.”
USA’s Andrew Torgashev moved up from 11th to finish seventh (219.67) overall. The U.S. bronze medalist is followed by Japan’s Tatsuya Tsuboi (216.98), Deniss Vasiljevs of Latvia (215.34) and USA’s Maxim Naumov (210.53).