By Lois Elfman
The reigning U.S. Men’s Silver Medalist is from right here, within shouting distance of the City of Falls Church. Not only that, Ilia Malinin, the 18-year-old Marshall High School senior, has already made figure skating history as the first person ever to land a “quadruple Axel” jump in competition and is now considered a “heavy favorite” to win the senior men’s championship at the 2023 U.S. Figure Skating championships Jan. 23-29 in San Jose, California.
As part of his preparation for that premier competition, Malinin spent the just-ended week between Christmas and New Year’s in California, as well, but this time in Southern California to train with a famous choreographer, Shae-Lynn Bourne.
Speaking by phone from there with this correspondent last week, he said, “We came here to make a couple of changes to the programs, to really try to get them as comfortable as possible so that when I go to my next competition, I’ll be really confident skating my programs…and hope for the best with making sure that I’m able to complete everything under pressure.”
Bourne, a renowned choreographer in the sport and three-time Olympian in ice dancing, is known for allowing skaters to slowly develop their artistry while emphasizing their individuality. Malinin described his work with Bourne as “a really fun time” and he is enjoying the learning process.
“I make a lot of connections even with the music to bring the programs to life,” said Malinin. Bourne “is flexible. If something is not working, she’s always there to try and change it. … It’s fun to work with her, but at the same time she’s always pushing me to be better. I’m always trying to be better.”
This past fall brought epic experiences for Malinin, who became the first skater in history to land the quadruple Axel jump in competition. After an impressive finish at the 2022 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Malinin made his debut at the World Championships, finishing ninth, and won the gold medal at the World Junior Championships. This fall, he won two Grand Prix competitions and earned the bronze medal at the Grand Prix Final.
“These competitions…are to know how I’m looking so far,” said Malinin. “In terms of this season, it’s looking pretty well. There were some huge accomplishments that I’ve wanted, and with the coming rest of the season I think the main focus is to try and work on those weak points and hope that they’ll get better over time.”
After a week with Bourne, Malinin has headed back to Northern Virginia, noting that he feels comfortable training at a rink in nearby Reston and being at home. It allows him to follow a familiar schedule of school and skating as he prepares to head to San Jose, California for the 2023 U.S. Championships, which will take place Jan. 23-29.
“I’ll have both of my parents coaching me, so I’ll be able to be more comfortable and prepare well for Nationals,” said Malinin.
His mother, Tatyana Malinina, and father, Roman Skorniakov, are former World and Olympic competitors who have trained him for years. He also periodically works with Rafael Arutunian, who coached Nathan Chen to Olympic gold at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games.
Malinin, a senior at Marshall High, was born in Fairfax and has grown up in Northern Virginia. He said he’s had a lot of different, fun experiences, and has totally felt at home.
“I really enjoy making new friends there and making even more experiences,” said Malinin, who doesn’t yet have his driver’s license, but he’s working on it. “I have a lot of friends at the rink. There are also other things to do. After I skate, I can always skateboard or ride bikes with friends. I always like to try new things.”
While it is considered that Malinin is the heavy favorite to win the senior men’s title at the 2023 U.S. Championships, he is doing his best not to focus on expectations, but rather aim for clean and well performed programs.
“My main goal is to prepare well for it and when I get there to be as confident as possible,” he said. “In the process, try to stay healthy, so that I’m really prepared for it. I hope that everything will go the best.
“I enjoy competing a lot because the audience watching feels your program and feels the mood you’re in,” he added. “I kind of like that because when the audience is very excited for me, I get a lot more energy and I have a fun time. Usually, after all the jumps, I get to play around with the audience.”