Ilia Malinin wins world title with greatest athletic performance in the history of figure skating

By Gina Capellazzi, Team FSO website administrator
Photos by Robin Ritoss

MONTREAL, QUE — Two-time U.S. Champion and 2023 World bronze medalist Ilia Malinin admitted he wasn’t sure he was going to compete at the 2024 World Championships. The 19-year-old from Fairfax, Virginia said it was hard mentally and physically for him weeks before Worlds, but he would not elaborate on what sort of challenges he was experiencing.

“There was a lot of doubt in my mind. I’m happy to be coming to Worlds and give it my all,” Malinin said after his third-place short program.

Yet, there wasn’t much doubt that Malinin would claim the title after his four and a half minute free skate Saturday at the Bell Centre in Montreal. The program was the greatest athletic performance in the history of figure skating with Malinin completing a record six quads. It ended the 2024 World Championships with a bang.

Malinin opened his “Succession” free skate with his trademark quadruple Axel, which earned 16.43 points. He continued with a quadruple Lutz, quadruple loop and quadruple Salchow. His two combinations and sequence were scored even higher  than his quadruple Axel. A quadruple Lutz-Euler-triple flip combination garnered a whopping 23.30 points, a quadruple toe-triple toe combination added 17.24 points and a triple Axel-triple Lutz sequence earned him additional 17.23 points. He earned a free skate score of 227.79, which was a new personal best score for Malinin, and a total score of 333.76, also a new personal best to claim the gold medal. The sold-out crowd in the Bell Centre rose to their feet even before Malinin finished his program. Malinin even collapsed at center ice in disbelief at the skate he had just delivered.

“It definitely means so much to me,” Malinin said in the press conference following his skate. “The past few weeks have been such a mental and phyiscal challenge for me to get through. I was even debating whether or not to come to the World Championships.The last minute, I wanted to do this. I wanted to come here and see what I can put on the ice. I’m glad that I stuck with that. Going through the short (program) and the free (program), I just trusted myself in my training. And with everything that I went through, I’m so glad to be on the top right now.”

“After that program, it was so amazing to me. I couldn’t even hold myself up. It was just that emotional to me,” he continued.

2022 Olympic silver medalist Yuma Kagiyama, of Japan, who was making his return to the World Championships after sitting out last season due to injury, sat in second place after the short program, just 0.38 points ahead of Malinin. In his “Rain, in Your Black Eyes” free skate, Kagiyama landed a quadruple Salchow, quadruple flip and quadruple toe-Euler-triple Salchow, along with four triple jumps. His only mistake came in the second half of the program when he fell on his second triple Axel. The 2024 Four Continents Champion earned a season’s best score of 203.30, which was third in the free skate, but he managed to hold onto the second spot with overall score of 309.65 points. The silver marked Kagiyama’s third silver medal at a World Championships.

“All I can say, really, is these World Championships, both short program and free skate, I put it all out there. I did as much as I could,” the 20-year-old said during the men’s free skate press conference. “As far as the score is concerned, I think I was satisfied. As for the results, I was satisfied, but there was a lot of disappointment as well. What I realized was, try as I might, I probably wouldn’t have been able to win this championship. This really brings me to think about planning very thoroughly for next season and all the way to the Olympics so that I can better myself.”

After the short program, two-time European Champion Adam Siao Him Fa, of France, found himself in 19th place, which was disappointing as Siao Him Fa was considered one of favorites to medal at these World Championships. He struggled with all of his jumping bases and failed to include a combination in his short program.

“It was tough after the short program. I was mad at myself for not attacking the jumps,” he said.

With that result, Siao Him Fa found himself skating in the first group of the men’s free skate. In his free skate set to music by Max Richter, he executed four quadruple jumps, including a quadruple Lutz, two quadruple toes (one in combination with a triple toe) and a quadruple Salchow. Feeling like he had nothing to lose, the 23-year-old threw in a backflip, which is an illegal element. It received a two-point deduction. Siao Him Fa earned a free skate score of 206.90 and an overall score of 284.39. The score was the highest score throughout most of the men’s event and Siao Him Fa had to wait two hours to see if that score would earn him a spot on the podium. He ended up having the second best free skate to win the bronze medal. This marks Siao Him Fa’s first world medal.

“This competition was a lot of ups and downs. I went through a lot of emotions,” Siao Him Fa said after the free skate. “I didn’t expect to win a medal after the short program. I just thought about skating a clean free skating and showing what I’m capable of. It went pretty well and I’m glad about that. It gives me some motivation for the future.”

The leader after the short program was two-time World champion Shoma Uno. In his free skate, Uno fell on his quadruple loop, which was also called on the quarter. He stepped out of his quadruple flip, which was also called on the quarter. He also received negative GOEs for triple Axel-Euler-triple flip.  The 26-year-old from Japan also received a one-point time violation. He earned a free skate score of 173.13, which was sixth in the free skate. He dropped to fourth place overall with a score of 280.85.

“I put my heart into this free program, aimed to make everyone who watched me perform happy, and this is the result I got. It truly reflects who I am, regardless of how I did today. I visualized how I would do my free program beforehand and looking back on everything, it was an exhilarating experience overall,” Uno told the media following his skate.

2024 U.S. silver medalist Jason Brown, who was fourth after the short program, brought the crowd to their feet with his “Impossible Dream” by Josh Groban free skate. The only mistake in his free skate was his triple Salchow in combination with a triple flip-Euler was called on the quarter. He earned a free skate score of 180.46, which was fifth in the free skate. He finished fifth overall with a score of 274.33.

When asked what’s next, Brown responded saying that he will start working on new pieces for next season when he leaves Montreal, getting a jump start on next season.

“I’ll see you guys next year,” he said.

Switzerland’s Lukas Britschgi, who was fifth after the short program, rounded out the top six. His free skate included two quadruple toe jumps. He earned a free skate score of 180.68, which was fourth in the free skate. It was a new personal best for Britschgi. He finished in sixth overall with a score of 274.09, which was also a personal best score.

“I am stoked. I just felt great out there. The crowd gave me so much energy and to be able to do a personal best at the World Championships is just awesome,” Britschgi exclaimed.

Latvia’s Deniss Vasiljevs and Japan’s Kao Miura finished seventh and eighth respectively. Italy’s Nikolaj Memola, who was in sixth place after the short program, finished in 9th place in his Worlds debut. Last year’s silver medalist Junhwan Cha, of Korea, finished in 10th place.

See full results here: