Teenager Ilia Malinin won his first US figure skating championships title on Sunday, even though he was unable to nail his ambitious free skate program.
Malinin, who has the Instagram handle “quadg0d” and became the first skater ever to land a quadruple Axel in competition last year, took gold in San Jose, California, with 287.74 points, ahead of Jason Brown in second and Andrew Torgashev in third.
He was unable to execute the quad Axel in the free skate and landed two other planned quads as doubles, but nevertheless finished 10.43 points ahead of two-time Olympian Brown.
“I was really so confident and I think I sort of over-thought everything and tried to get ahead of myself,” Malinin told NBC.
“But I think it’s alright, you always learn from your experiences and there’s always still the rest of the season to come.”
The 18-year-old finished second behind Nathan Chen at last year’s national championships but his inexperience meant he wasn’t selected for the Winter Olympics in Beijing.
After winning gold at Beijing 2022, Chen has been focusing on his studies at Yale, according to reports.
Malinin entered this year’s competition at SAP Center as the strong favorite and duly moved into the lead when he scored a personal best of 110.36 points in the short program.
After falling on his quad Axel attempt in the free skate, Malinin recovered to land three consecutive quads and finished with a score of 177.78.
The veteran Brown, competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Olympic last year, produced a near-flawless execution of his free skate program to score 177.06 and place second overall, earning him a standing ovation from those in the arena.
Malinin, Brown, and Torgashev, who top-scored in the free skate with 177.78, earned selection for the World Figure Skating Championships, which run from March 20-26 and will be held in Saitama, Japan.
Isabeau Levito, Bradie Tennell, and Amber Glenn gained selection for the women’s competition having taken the top three spots in the national championships prior to the conclusion of the men’s competition.