Ilia Malinin became the first skater to land a quadruple Axel in a short program and took the lead at the Grand Prix Final, the most prestigious event of the fall season.
Malinin, a 19-year-old American, opened his program with the quad Axel, the most difficult jump in figure skating and one that only he has ever landed clean in competition.
The computerized scoring system initially didn’t recognize it and awarded it zero points before it was corrected — likely because it had never been done in a short before. Malinin followed it with a quad Lutz-triple toe loop combination and a triple Axel, making it the most difficult set of jumps ever for a short program.
He totaled 106.90 points, edging two-time world champion Shoma Uno of Japan by 88 hundredths going into Saturday’s free skate in Beijing. Malinin is bidding for the biggest international title of his career.
GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule
He had shelved the quad Axel in his two previous Grand Prix starts this fall while prioritizing artistry. Last season, he attempted it at all eight of his competitions, but strictly in free skates.
It has been considered less likely for a short because a skater already has to perform an Axel (a double or triple) as one of the three jumping passes in that skate.
Malinin performed it excellently, receiving a 3.04-point grade of execution (on a scale of minus-5 to plus-5), matching his second-best quad Axel score from last season. One judge gave him a quixotic minus-5 grade, though the highest and lowest are thrown out regardless.
The Grand Prix Final continues Friday with the pairs’ free skate, women’s short program and rhythm dance, live on Peacock.
Earlier Thursday, Germans Minerva Fabienne Hase and Nikita Volodin led the pairs’ short program by 1.34 points over top seeds Denna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps of Canada.
In their first season together, Hase and Volodin won both of their fall Grand Prix starts. On Thursday, they outscored the Canadians thanks to cleaner jumps.
Stellato-Dudek, 40, is already the oldest skater to win any Grand Prix Series event. She was the 2000 World junior silver medalist in singles, skating for the U.S., then retired in 2001 due to injuries. She came back in 2016 as a pairs’ skater, then switched nationality to Canada in 2021.
The top two pairs from last year are absent. Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara missed the Grand Prix Series due to Kihara’s back injury. Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier didn’t enter the Grand Prix Series after saying they would probably retire after last season.