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Mikaela Shiffrin opens the Alpine Skiing World Cup season, live on Peacock

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It was at the beginning of last spring that Raphael Aroutiounianlong-time coach of Nathan Chenhas met Roman Skorniakovwho mentioned that his son, a 17-year-old American Ilia Malininwanted to land a quadruple Axel, the only four-revolution jump that has yet to be performed properly by a competitive figure skater.

Arutyunyan, 65, who worked with Malinin part-time, assured Skorniakov, a 1998 and 2002 Olympic skater for Uzbekistan, that Malinin’s triple Axel was so polished he would eventually get that quad.

You think? asked Skornyakov. I know it, Arutyunyan replied.

About a month later, Skorniakov relayed that Malinin did. The world found out in May, when US Figure Skating posted a video of him hitting the Axel at a camp.

Malinin officially entered the history books when he first attempted it competitively last month, tying it up on his season debut in a lower-tier event.

Even before that, Malinin was already the new leader in American figure skating, considering Olympic champion Chen and his teammates. Vincent Zhu and Jason Brown are on an indefinite, if not permanent, break from competition.

Now, Malinin is the most talked about active skater in all four disciplines ahead of this weekend’s Skate America, the season’s first high-level event. He is favored to become the youngest man to win the annual contest which began in 1979.

SKATE AMERICA: Broadcast Schedule

“All eyes are on me, it puts a lot of pressure on me,” Malinin, who splits her days between Marshall High School and the SkateQuest rink in Virginia, said last Saturday.

Malinin said he’s not yet sure if he’ll try the Axel quad at Skate America. He focuses on “clean and consistent” programs with a “basic layout,” which includes four more quads in his free skate.

“If I keep putting it in [programs] this season, I think that over time, it will become quite regular; especially if they were to increase the base value, then I feel like there would be a reason to try and practice a lot,” Malinin said, referring to the points awarded to an Axel quad by the International Skating Union (12.5, one more point than the next highest jump, the quad Lutz). “But at the moment I think we don’t really know what to do with it. At the moment I think it’s more practice, as opposed to trying to fit it into the program to take advantage of it. In future years, when the base value is higher, it will be much more reasonable to include it.

He didn’t even mention the quad Axel, or any jumps, when asked about his goals for the season.

“Improve the choreography and the component score because in the past it wasn’t the best,” he said.

Whether fully earned or not, young show jumping phenoms are often marked with component – ​​or artistic – scores that can amount to half of a skater’s total score. Chen experienced this as a teenager, improved his skating skills and music interpretation, and increased his grades.

Malinin sees her style as a mix between Chen and her childhood idol, 2014 and 2018 Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyuwith a bit of its own taste splashed. He sifts through that last bit, spending up to 90 minutes of his four- to five-hour days on the ice doing footwork and performing programs without jumps or spins.

When asked how long he’s been traveling the country to see show jumping master Arutyunyan in California, Malinin said he’ll be going there primarily to work on choreography with renowned Canadian artists. Shae Lynn Bourne. She also collaborated with Chen.

“I’m kind of finding my own style,” he said.

He is clearly confident in the jumps. Malinin started believing he could land the Axel quad last season, when skaters including Hanyu tried it out (but didn’t land it properly in competition).

“At first it was kind of a joke,” to try, he said. Malinin started out perfecting her triple Axel, then started practicing quads in a pole harness (helping with technique and preventing falls and injuries).

“Eventually, it led me to try a lot of attempts,” he said. “And then I landed it.”

He is already thinking of an unprecedented quintuple jump. He would like to land one in training by the end of this season.

“I really believe this guy can do it,” Arutyunyan said.

The question is whether Malinin can make it on the biggest stages in the sport. And not just the jumps, but the whole package.

In January, when the spotlight was on Chen, he broke through with a second-place finish in his senior U.S. Championships debut (and was cut from the three-man Olympic team due to his youth and lack of overall resume. ).

In his senior world championship debut in March, he placed ninth after a four-four free skate that included a fall and two underrotation jumps.

In last month’s event where he hit the quad Axel in his free skate, he also fell on the quads twice in his short program. It was in front of some fans in Lake Placid, NY

Malinin was informed that this week’s Skate America, the largest annual international competition held in the United States, sold out a 2,500-seat arena outside of Boston.

“It makes me really excited, but also a little scary to see that I’m going to be playing in front of a lot of people,” he said. “It will be something to start getting used to in other big competitions because who knows, there could be a huge stadium full of people I have to play in front of.”

NBC Sports’ Sarah Hughes (not the figure skater) contributed to this report.

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