Meet Ilia Malinin, the 'Quad God' of Figure Skating
Ilia Malinin, also known as the "quad god" of figure skating, is making history. Here's what you should know about him before you watch him compete next.
10 Things Everyone Should Know About Ilia Malinin
When it comes to winter sports, few names have made more waves recently than Ilia Malinin, a teenager from Virginia. He's the latest big star in the figure skating world, but his accomplishments are so startling that even people who don't follow the sport have heard of him.
In 2022, he landed the first quadruple axel in international competition, earning him the nickname "quad god." And he's just getting started. You can expect to see him at the next Winter Olympics, so you might as well get to know him now.
Ilia Malinin Is the Son of Two Russian-Born Olympians
The apple really doesn't fall far from the tree. Ilia Malinin is descended from two Olympic figure skaters. Both Russian-Uzbekistani athletes, his father, Roman Skorniakov, skated in both the 1998 and 2002 Winter Olympics, and his mother, Tatiana Malinina, placed eighth in 1998.
Ilia took the masculine version of his mother's last name since his parents thought it would be easier to pronounce. The young prodigy speaks fluent English and Russian and has grown up and trained in Reston, Virginia.
He Started Skating in Earnest When He Was 6
Both of his parents worked at the rink as coaches, so it was only natural for Ilia to come along after school. He took to the ice naturally, skating for fun while his parents worked.
At first, it was just a practical arrangement, giving him something to do while his parents were teaching alongside him. By the time he was 6, though, his talent for the sport was apparent, and he began training to compete.
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His Parents Weren't Sold on His Skating Career
Some athletes dream that their kids will follow in their footsteps. Malinin's parents weren't among them. Initially, they weren't sold on the idea of him competing because of the sheer intensity of training and commitment required, not to mention the high cost of entry.
But once they realized his passion for the sport wasn't going away, they got on board. They still serve as his coaches, with the help of additional coaches and choreographers as well.
Ilia Malinin Is Only 5-Foot-6
It's hard to judge height from afar, but Ilia Malinin is no giant. He's only 5-foot-6, while the average height for adult men in the U.S. is about 5-foot-9. Height isn't a limiting factor in figure skating, though. Now-retired gold medalist singles skater Evan Lysacek, for example, is 6-foot-2.
In fact, being petite does come with a few advantages. The shorter the skater, the lower their center of gravity, making spins and jumps slightly easier. Being more compact also makes it easier to rotate jumps. Malinin's small frame likely gives him the edge he needs to break records, like landing his famous quad axel. Nathan Chen is also 5-foot-6, and Yuzuru Hanyu is only 5-foot-7.
He Set the Junior World Record Score ... Three Times
In the 2022 World Junior Championships, after upheaval due to the Bulgarian pandemic measures, he ended up setting a new junior world record for his short program, with a score of 88.99.
He also set a record for the free skate and another for total score, topping the silver medalist's score by 42 points.
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Behind the Scenes, He's Still a Kid
Sure, Malinin's an elite athlete, but he's also just a kid. He skateboards, plays video games, bikes on trails near his house and kicks a soccer ball around for luck before competitions — in addition to trying some flips for fun.
He does have to pay attention to optimal nutrition most of the time, but when he eats out, he's a big fan of Five Guys.
He's the Youngest Male Skate America Champion in History
Ilia Malinin's senior international debut took place in the 2022 season at the U.S. Classic. He only placed sixth in his short program, but his free skate included five quadruple jumps, including a quad axel — the first-ever landed in an international competition. Despite one fall, he easily came in first place in the free skate and first place overall.
Later that year at the 2022 Skate America event in Norwood, Massachusetts, he claimed first place with a total score of 280.37, seven points higher than second-place finisher Kao Miura. In doing so, he became the youngest male Skate America champion in the sport's history.
RELATED: Ilia Malinin Just Landed a Quad Axel in Figure Skating. And We Shouldn’t Be Celebrating.
Ilia Malinin's Legendary Quad Axel Was a Last-Minute Decision
Don't get us wrong, Malinin had been honing the jump behind the scenes for some time. Whether or not he'd risk unveiling it in his senior Grand Prix debut was another matter entirely. Even the morning of the event, he wasn't sure if he'd try it.
It's lucky he took the risk because he landed it almost perfectly, helping him catch up after ending in fourth place after his short program.
He Might Be Gearing Up for Quintuple Jumps
Executing a quintuple jump is close to impossible, but Ilia Malinin seems to enjoy playing with the impossible. A quadruple axel is already 4.5 revolutions. A quintuple toe loop isn't that much more, and one of his coaches believes it's possible. If he attempts it in the near future, we can't say we'd be shocked.
It would, however, force the technical committee to alter their scoring rules in a mad scramble. Since quintuple jumps aren't yet in the sport's scoring system, judges would have to ask for an emergency ruling to give him credit for a solid attempt.
The Skater's Favorite Subject Is, Fittingly, Physics
As of 2023, Malinin is still a high school student. He goes to George C. Marshall High School in Falls Church. For an elite athlete, that's unusual. Most attend classes online or are homeschooled to allow more flexibility for training, but he credits public school with helping him maintain a social life.
As for academics, he loves physics. At this point, we're not sure why he's even taking it since the stunts he pulls every day are like a live physics masterclass.