Men’s figure skating remains the most exciting and thrilling sport in the world. An example of this is the competition in Angers, where Ilia Malinin and Adam Xiao Him Fa stood against each other as brightly as if it were not a regular Grand Prix event, but at least a World Championship.
At the beginning of the competition, it is worth noting the debut of Nicolai Memola from Italy, who was competing in the adult Grand Prix stage for the first time. At 195 centimeters tall, he successfully executed square jumps, including a clean quadruple lutz in the free program. He still needs to work on his endurance and stability, but he will certainly improve with age and experience.
Lucas Bricgi, the bronze medalist of the European Championships, could not get on the podium in Angers because of the complexity of his programs. Despite this, his rolls are always admired due to his charisma and unusual choice of music.
Yuma Kagiyama, who returned after a break, did not manage to perform two successful clean rides in the same competition. However, his skating is still pleasing to the eye and his images have matured.
Yuma Kagiyama’s final score was 273.14 points, and he continues to work on his skills and stability.
Adam Xiao Him Fa, who started second after the short program, was only 0.51 points behind Ilia Malinin. His performance was almost flawless, including a quadruple lutz, two toeloop, a salchow and two triple axels. All non-jumping elements were performed at the fourth level of difficulty, and Adam even demonstrated a somersault while walking off the ice. In the end, he received 306.78 points, renewing his personal record and becoming the sixth skater to score more than 300 points.
Adam successfully performed four quadruple jumps in one program for the first time and demonstrated outstanding technique. This performance caused a great applause in the hall.
Ilia Malinin was the last to start the free skating program and seemed to be preparing for victory. All his jumps were successful, but small mistakes cost him precious points. Despite his technical performance, he lost to Adam in the components.
The final gap on the score sheet was 2.1 points in Adam’s favor, a significant improvement from last season.
The gold remains in France, and hopefully Adam Xiao Him Fa will continue to surprise the public with such outstanding performances. Although Ilia Malinin won on technique, components and small mistakes prevented him from winning gold this time around.
“Will I do a quadruple axel in the free program? No, I don’t see the point in it. It’s better to confidently perform the triple axel and get good marks than to take a risk with the quadruple. The cost of this jump is so unprofitable that there is no point in trying to perform it in competitions. Maybe I will put it in the program a little later,” he said after the short program.
Interestingly, this is the first time when Ilia publicly expressed such reasoning (although his agent, Ari Zakaryan, has already expressed such opinions). A year ago, Ilia declared his intention to include the quadruple axel in all competitions, even when he was barely recovering from injury. It was this difficult jump that was the most stable for him.
It is noticeable that Adam Xiao-Him Fa shares Ilia’s point of view regarding the quadruple axel: “I agree that the quadruple axel is underrated, because it is a very risky jump. So there is no point in trying it in competitions. The point of our class is to move our sport forward, otherwise why do it at all?”
In mid-October, even before the Grand Prix began, Ilia’s mother (who is also his coach), Tatiana Malinina, revealed that her son was already trying out the pentathlon jumps.
“The program must be balanced, figure skating is not only jumps. But it is still a sport. We need to strive to develop both the artistic side and the difficult elements in figure skating. In my opinion, if it’s a sport, it’s important not only to skate beautifully, but also to master unique elements,” Malinina explained. However, she admitted that it makes no sense to include five jumps in competitions, because their value has not yet been established.
The same idea about the uniqueness of Ilia’s technique was supported by his coach Rafael Harutyunyan. He also added: “Physics is very dependent on psychology, Ilia’s abilities work in combination with a very high level of motivation. However, now the motivation seems to have decreased.”
“When ISU lowered the value of this jump, he made it clear to everyone that he doesn’t want unique elements and he doesn’t want skaters to take risks. Yes, definitely the quadruple axel is stressful for the body, but athletes are adults and approach it consciously, training their bodies. I know that many skaters were disappointed in this decision, because it is the high cost of the jump that motivates them to try something new,” Ilia complained after the Grand Prix.