Ilia Malinin: “Jumping is my strong side. I think that I will be recognized as a good jumper. But if I want to achieve a good result at the Olympics, then I need to improve other aspects of skating.”
Interview with Ilia Malinin about the past season, progress with quads, and his interests besides figure skating.
source: olympics.com dd. 16th October 2022 by Tatjana Flade
The past season has been amazing for you. What are your impressions?
Ilia Malinin: Last season was significantly different from the previous one when because of quarantine it was not possible to go on the ice, and it was difficult to train and get back in shape. The past season was a kind of progress – when you get back in shape, compete again, skate cleanly and just work hard. This allowed me to compete more consistently.
At the Pre-Olympic Nationals, you finished second but didn’t make it to the Games. How did you cope with the disappointment?
Ilia Malinin: Getting to the Olympic Games is everyone’s dream. And one of my goals for this competition was to try to qualify for the Games. When I found out that I would not go there, I was upset for a couple of days, but I just had to get over it and focus on what would happen next.
What did your parents say to you?
Ilia Malinin: They told me not to take it to heart. Before the competitions, I didn’t think that I could really get to the Games, but after I skated well, I thought that I could go.
At the World Championships, you performed well in the short program, finishing fourth. But in the free program, you made several mistakes and moved to 9th place. How did you survive this situation and what did you learn from this experience for your performance at the World Junior Championships?
Ilia Malinin: After the free skate at the senior World Championships, we noted that my jumps were not as stable and good as at the beginning of the season. So between senior and junior Worlds, we worked to do more run-throughs of the free program and more jumps in order to achieve consistent skating.
How much pressure did you feel at the “junior worlds”?
Ilia Malinin: There was a little less pressure than at the senior Worlds because after all, the “senior worlds” is a competition where senior skaters participate. This event is much more significant, famous people skate there. But there is also pressure at Junior Worlds if you are the favorite and everyone expects you to win. Which is what I did and I’m happy with it.
The role of the favorite to win at competitions was a new role for you. What conclusion about yourself as an athlete did you draw after being in such a situation?
Ilia Malinin: Usually I try to focus on important things that depend on my condition. During the skate, I need to focus on a good jump entry. If I put more effort into entering the jump correctly, the chances of failing it are not big.
You have grown a lot in the execution of quad jumps in the last two years. How did you work on them and what made it possible to make such progress in working on these elements?
Ilia Malinin: I don’t think there is any secret in learning quadruple jumps easily. The work on them takes a lot of time and requires a lot of attempts. But since the quarantine started, I have been doing a lot of work off the ice.
I worked on a triple axel and began to work on quads off the ice – on quad salchow and quad toe loop. When I was back on the ice, transfered the jumps there, and achieved a consistent performance of the salchow, then toe loop, then the lutz, loop, and flip.
You post videos of crazy combinations, 4-4, and something like that. What elements did you try to make?
Ilia Malinin: Combinations of two quads, quad-euler-quad, and quad axel. We worked on it after the end of the season.
We are thinking about including these elements into the program, but we do not know whether we will do it. Since according to the rules it is impossible to repeat two quadruple jumps in the program. If that changes, it might be a lot easier to figure out what to do.
Yuzuru Hanyu tried to perform a quadruple axel at the Beijing Games. What do you think of this attempt?
Ilia Malinin: That was a pretty good attempt. I think at that time it was one of the best attempts to perform this jump that was made. But, to be honest, I would say that Artur Dmitriev Jr.’s attempt at the US Nationals was closer to being successful. It really seemed that the jump was almost clean and there was only a step out.
During the work on difficult elements, did you have any serious falls?
Ilia Malinin: Generally speaking, there was a heavy fall at the World Championships. But when I do combinations, the falls aren’t that hard because I’m in control of what I’m doing. So the falls aren’t as bad as they could be. I underrotate a jump and fall back.
It is not necessary that falling from a difficult jump is always terrible. This rarely happens.
It is obvious that you have the ability to perform jumps and you like to jump. How do you feel in other aspects of skating?
Ilia Malinin: Actually, I want to show that I’m not only good at jumping. I expect to spend time and energy on improving my skating skills, spinning, and working on the second mark so it becomes much better than last season. These aspects require a lot of effort. But if you only think about jumps, then you do not use your potential to the maximum. When the process of learning and practicing jumps starts to go easier, you need to start devoting more time to the choreography, and more work on the program components.
In your opinion, what are the advantages and disadvantages of being coached by parents?
Ilia Malinin: The disadvantage, first of all, is that my training kind of takes away their time to work with other skaters who pay money. When they work with me (they work for free, of course), they cannot work with other athletes who pay them. On the other hand, communication and connection are easier to build. If you have a hard day, they will talk with you more and help.
How do you manage to separate life at the rink and at home? Maybe you don’t talk about figure skating all day?
Ilia Malinin: Usually I don’t really separate it. Both at the rink and at home, I treat my parents as coaches or as parents. Depending on the situation. But usually at home, we talk more about household chores, and at the rink, we talk a lot about figure skating. When we get home, we usually talk about what I did or what I need to work on, and then about other things.
Your younger sister Liza is also doing figure skating. Do you help her?
Ilia Malinin: No, because she doesn’t listen. She is seven.
When did you start working with Rafael Arutyunyan, and how did it happen?
Ilia Malinin: I don’t remember all the details. But I think that when I first competed at the National Championships. I competed in the novice category. Rafael was at the competitions because I think Nathan was skating on practice ice. And I had to perform. My parents and Raf are good friends and he wanted to see my performance. I didn’t skate very well then, but he said that I have prospects and we should come to him for training. I started going to him. There was no regular schedule, I usually came when there was no school for a week or two. It was difficult to leave because of the school.
If we talk about your vision of figure skating, what is it in general? What kind of skater would you like to be in a few years, perhaps at the next Olympics?
Ilia Malinin: Jumping is my strong side. I think that I will be recognized as a good jumper. But if I want to achieve a good result at the Olympic Games in the future, then I need to improve other aspects of skating.
You said that Nathan Chen is your idol. Maybe he gave you some advice?
Ilia Malinin: Usually I don’t talk too much about figure skating with him. If I ask him questions, it’s more about travel, some less important things. And in figure skating, I ask about some general things, not about technique or jumps.
Do you have friends among skaters, or is it hard to be friends with rivals?
Ilia Malinin: When you think about friendship with rivals, it seems that it is hard to be friends with those with whom you compete. But I have many friends among those with whom I compete.
Do you have any rituals that you follow?
Ilia Malinin: I take a soccer ball to every competitions. I use it during warm-ups and it’s also my lucky charm.
You grew up in a bilingual environment – you speak Russian and English. What advantages do you see in this?
Ilia Malinin: This gives me the opportunity to speak Russian and understand Russian-speaking skaters. But not 100%. Some things I may not understand or not understand from the first time. Knowing two languages sometimes creates difficulty in the sense that people around you mix them up, or you yourself can mix English and Russian words in your speech.
What are your favorite school subjects? What would you like to study?
Ilia Malinin: I would like to study natural sciences (this is my favorite). Especially chemistry or physics. However, in college, I will probably study interior design. I think about creativity. When I’m bored, I think about it, usually, I draw.
This is the side of your personality that we don’t know at all. What else does the public not know about you?
Ilia Malinin: I love skateboarding, I really do. I usually do it on the weekends when there is no training and I don’t get tired on the ice. When I was 6 or 7 years old, I did gymnastics.
Since you are interested in design, do you take part in the creation of your costumes?
Ilia Malinin: Partially, yes. When the costume is ready, sometimes I want to change something a little or add something.
And what attracts you the most in figure skating?
Ilia Malinin: When I went on the ice, I felt that this was my sport. I just started skating. Over the last couple of years, I’ve started to make progress. And then I realized that I really like this sport. So I thought I could put in more effort than before.
And how would you describe yourself?
Ilia Malinin: I would say creative, willing to try new things, and full of determination.
Related topics: Ilia Malinin
“Anna Pogorilaya was preparing for the Olympics, she had back problems and coach used to take it out on us. I was tired of all this toxic environment.” Speed skater Alexandra Sayutina about quitting figure skating