American teenager Ilia Malinin landed the second ever quadruple axel in competition on Saturday without so much as a wobble.
Competing at Skate America, the 17-year-old’s historic free skate secured him the gold medal in his senior Grand Prix debut as he became the youngest men’s champion in the event’s history.
Malinin had become the first person ever to complete a quadruple axel in competition last month during the US International Figure Skating Classic, a lower-level event.
But still, he was unsure whether to incorporate figure skating’s most difficult move into his free skate routine at Skate America.
“This morning I wasn’t really sure if I would attempt it or not,” Malinin told NBC afterwards. “But I think that it came over my mind that everyone’s watching, I have to go for this and I went for it and I landed it. I’m still in shock.
“The whole building was screaming for at least a couple of seconds after that, I didn’t even know if the music was still playing.”
Even some of the sport’s most decorated stars have been unable to land a quadruple axel for it requires four-and-a-half revolutions in the air, turning from a forward-facing take off to a backward-facing landing. For 44 years, the jump had been locked at a triple.
Double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu said before the 2022 Beijing Olympics that landing a quadruple axel was his biggest motivation but when he attempted it at the Games, he slightly under-rotated and fell.
Meanwhile, reigning Olympic champion Nathan Chen has successfully landed every other type of quadruple jump except for the axel.
And so, when Malinin – the junior world champion – landed a jump that had eluded so many before him, it marked a remarkable moment in figure skating history.
“I was in shock, I didn’t know I just did that!” he added. “I’m impressed with myself that I was able to pull that off. Even now, I’m still lost for words. I don’t know what to say about that. I didn’t know I could do that.”