News & Politics

Ilia Malinin on How He Pulled Off the First Quad Axel

The high-school student did what no other athlete ever has.

Ilia Malinin. Photograph by Jay Adeff/U.S. Figure Skating.

In September, Vienna, Virginia, high-school student Ilia Malinin became the first skater ever to land a quad axel in competition. We asked him how he pulled off the gravity-defying four-and-a-half-rotation jump.

1. Set a Goal

Malinin, who’s been skating more than a decade, had long wanted to crack the quad. At first, his parents—his coaches, who are former pro skaters themselves—thought he was joking. “I didn’t really know that it was possible,” he says. “It was kind of just a dream.”

2. Practice, Obviously

Landing the quad is as much mental as it is physical, Malinin insists. “Feel confident in what you’re about to do, and then just focus on the technique,” he says. “You don’t really have time to think about what you’re doing. You have to trust yourself.”

3. Take your Shot

Malinin’s first successful attempt came during a practice last May, and that breakthrough was “the best feeling ever,” he says. Still, he was surprised he actually pulled it off during the competition, since he hadn’t had a great week of practice leading up to it.

4. Go for Five!

Now that Malinin accomplished his goal—and made international news in the process, with a video clip of the leap going viral—he’s already looking toward the next daring feat: a quint axel. Too difficult? We’ll see.

This article appears in the November 2022 issue of Washingtonian.

Carmen Honker
Digital Media Producer