— ISU Figure Skating (@ISU_Figure) October 23, 2022
Figure skater Ilia Malinin, aka the “quad god,” just made history — again. Malinin landed the first quad axel in the history of the Grand Prix of Figure Skating on Oct. 23. The huge accomplishment comes a little over a month after Malinin became the first figure skater to land a quad axel in competition, which he did while competing at the US International Classic on Sept. 15. This time around, competing on the big stage at Skate America, the jump helped the 17-year-old American leap into first place and become the youngest men’s champion in Skate America history. It was a groundbreaking moment and a fitting culmination to the sport’s years of high-flying quad dominance.
Malinin nailed the history-making jump, which requires a stunning four and a half revolutions in the air, as the first element in his free skate, and promptly brought the house down. “I felt great,” Malinin said after his victory, according to Olympics.com. “I’m still in shock and I don’t really know how I pulled that off. I just trusted in my practice and it worked out well. I knew when I stepped out on the ice for my warm-up that I would go for it.”
The quad axel is the most difficult of the quad jumps, all of which require four revolutions in the air. The quad axel actually comprises four and a half turns thanks to its distinctive forward-facing takeoff, a trait unique to all the axel jumps. Malinin said that Yuzuru Hanyu, the Japanese figure skating superstar who retired in July, “definitely inspired” him to try the jump. Hanyu, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, fell attempting the quad axel at the Beijing 2022 Games and has previously said that attempting the never-before-done jump “is like walking in the dark,” according to NBC Sports. American Artur Dmitriev Jr. also attempted a quad axel at the 2022 US Nationals, but he stepped out of the landing, and the jump was later judged to be underrotated.
In competition, the quad axel has a massive base value of 12.50, and landing it cleanly along with a bonus grade-of-execution point helped Malinin rack up 194.29 points in his free skate and win Skate America with 280.29 points overall. The quad axel was the first jump he attempted in his free skate, a typical strategy for figure skaters who’d rather go for their hardest jumps on relatively fresh legs.
Who will be the next to land, or even attempt, the difficult quad axel in competition? Well, there’s always reigning Olympic champion Nathan Chen, who has reportedly attempted the jump in practice. Chen is currently taking a break from the sport, though, and won’t be competing in the Grand Prix circuit this season. Chen’s hiatus allowed Malinin to take center stage, where he’s clearly thriving — not an easy thing to do when the pressure is on. “When I’m practicing [the quad axel], it’s pretty easy for me to figure out how to get the right timing and everything to have it be a good attempt,” Malinin explained after landing the jump in September, according to ESPN. “To do it in competition is a different story because you have nerves and pressure that can get in the way. . . . So I have to treat it like I’m at home, and it feels pretty good.”
As the quad axel moves out of the realm of myth and into real-life skating competitions, we’re sure to see even more attempts in the future. So what’s next? Quintuple jumps? Never say never.