Ilya Malinin repeated as Skate America champion, but this year he showed he can prevail without a quadruple Axel — and broke his personal best.
The 18-year-old landed four other quadruple jumps, plus a closing triple axel combination as his second jump, in Saturday’s free skate to music from HBO’s “Inheritance.”
He collected a total of 310.47 points and distanced the Frenchman Kevin Aimoz by 31.38 points. Malinin’s previous best score in international competition was 288.44.
“I didn’t think it was a flawless long program,” said Malinin, a Virginia resident whose parents skated in the Olympics for Uzbekistan. “I did not expect that [high of a] result.”
SKATE AMERICA: Results | Broadcast schedule
He became the fifth person to surpass 300 points at an international event, following Olympic gold medalists Nathan Chen and Yuzuru Hanyu and Olympic silver medalists Shoma Uno and Yuma Kagiyama.
His score would have won last season’s world championships (where Malinin took bronze as the only teenager in the top 13) with a 9.33.
Malinin received positive marks for completing all of his jumps for the first time in his senior international career, according to SkatingScores.com.
Last year, Malinin became the first skater to land a pure quad Axel in competition and has attempted it in all eight of his competitions, including becoming Skate America’s youngest-ever men’s champion.
This year, he focused more on improving his artistic output. That score between Friday’s short program and Saturday’s free skate was 131.63 points, a personal best by 4.69.
“One of the things I did was I looked at other skaters and their best performances in the past, like Yuzuru Hanyu, Nathan Chen, and I just took some parts of their programs and kind of how they attacked the ice and how I really approached the audience from there and I tried to use it in my own way,” Malinin said.
For now, he’s playing it safe with his jumps, although the quadruple Axel could return for December’s Grand Prix final, the first competition of the season that brings together all the world’s best skaters.
The Skate America field was missing the two men who bested Malinin at last March’s worlds, Uno and South Korea’s Cha Jun-Hwan.
Malinin is likely to face a bigger test at his next event in France next month when Kagiyama is in the field.
Earlier, world bronze medalist Loena Hendrick of Belgium led the women’s short program.
Hendricks, 23, had three clean jump passes, including a combination of a triple Lutz and a triple touluping. She collected 75.92 points to lead Sunday’s free skate.
Americans Amber Glenn and Isabeau Levito finished second and third. Glenn, the U.S. bronze medalist, posted a career-best short program time of 71.45.
World champions Madison Chock and Evan Bates had the highest score in the rhythm dance, about six and a half hours after Chock fell at the end of the workout. Chock lays on the ice for about 20 seconds, then skates under his own power.
Bates said after the rhythmic dance that both felt fine and had been cleared to compete by the medical staff.
“I lost control of the lift at the end of our program and that’s a terrible feeling as a partner, especially as a lifting partner,” he said. “What we do is dangerous and I feel like that is sometimes overlooked. … It was a scary moment.”
In Sunday’s free dance, Chock and Bates were bidding for their fourth Skate America title and the 15th consecutive Skate America crown for a U.S. pair.
Germany’s Annika Hocke and Robert Kunkel won the doubles, defending their lead from Friday’s short program. The field included zero skaters who had previously finished in the top two at any Grand Prix event.
World champions Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara of Japan withdrew last week with back injuries.