Are we closer to the first official quadruple Axel in figure skating competition?
Barely months after Hanyu Yuzuru became the first skater to try the extremely difficult element at an Olympic Games, falling on an under-rotated attempt at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, the world junior champion Ilia Malinin has taken a big step towards doing so.
On Thursday, the 17-year-old looked to have successfully landed the jump cleanly at a U.S. Figure Skating training camp – twice.
The American national federation tweeted video of the Virginia-based skater landing one of the jumps to audible gasps from others in attendance.
Why is the quad Axel so sought after?
An Axel – single, double, triple or quad – is the most challenging of figure skating jumps in terms of rotations because it is the only jump in the sport in which skaters take off facing forward.
When they land (facing backward), they have done one-and-a-half rotations, for example, for a single Axel. Two-and-and-half rotations for a double Axel – and so on.
It’s also the easiest for fans to spot at home: If the skater is facing forward when he or she takes off for the jump, kicking their free leg into the air to spring into it, it’s an Axel.
The International Skating Union (ISU), the sport's world governing body, has yet to ratify a successful quadruple Axel. It is the only quadruple jump that has never been successfully landed in competition.
Under the ISU's current judging system, a quadruple Axel carries a base value of 12.50 – one point more than the quadruple Lutz, currently the highest-scoring quad jump (11.50 base value) to have been landed in competition.
American coach Tom Zakrajsek, who does not work with Malinin but was present at the training camp in which Malinin landed his jumps, remarked: "Mark my words the [ISU] will have to update their scale of values very soon."
Who is Ilia Malinin?
Malinin, the son of two former Olympic figure skaters and who is coached by his parents, is a self-proclaimed "quadg0d" – his Instagram handle – who has landed other quadruples in competition.
The teenager won silver at the U.S. nationals in January – landing six quadruple jumps over his two routines – but was not selected for the Olympic team on the basis of a lack of senior experience; his senior international debut at the World Championships in France in March saw him finish ninth after a rough free skate.
But he put the disappointment behind him, taking his outing in Montpellier – where he had been fourth after a stunning short program in which he broke the 100-point barrier – as a learning experience for the World Juniors in April, where he dominated to win by nearly 30 points.
Quadruple Axel history?
Hanyu, the Japanese skating legend, has long been vocal about his aim of being the first man to land the quad Axel in competition.
He attempted the jump at a competition for the first time at last season's Japanese nationals, but completed less than the required four-and-a-half rotations in a quad Axel and saw his attempt – which he completed with both feet on the ice instead of on one foot – downgraded.
Hanyu also tried the jump at Beijing 2022, falling on his attempt which was marked as under-rotated. However, that remains the closest anyone has come to landing the move at an international competition.
Now, Malinin could beat him to the punch. With the figure skating season over, however, the teenager will have to wait until late summer – likely at the end of August or into September – before he can show the jump off at a senior international event.