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At the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Ilia Malinin establishes a commanding lead

The defending champion, Ilia Malinin, grabbed a commanding lead in the U.S. championships on Friday at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, by making what is arguably the hardest jump in figure skating appear effortless, as well as the rest of his brief performance.

In his “Malagueña” routine, Malinin began with a smooth quad toe loop, then executed a quad lutz-triple toe combination, and finally made a triple axel appear as simple as a skip across the ice. After a brief program, Malinin received 108.57 points, the largest lead in nationals history under the current scoring system.

Malinin displayed a black and gold towel bearing the all-too-fitting moniker “Quad God” as soon as he heard the results. He won the Grand Prix Final and went into the nationals.

The junior national champion for 2020, Max Naumov, finished surprisingly second after making up for a mistake on his triple axel with his first quad salchow. Having finished fourth in the previous year’s competition, he gained 89.72 points this time around.

Despite tripping over his initial triple axel, Jason Brown delivered a show that was unmatched. Skating to “Adios” by British composer Benjamin Clementine, the 29-year-old fan favorite—who missed the majority of the season in order to keep healthy and get ready for nationals—recovered to land a triple flip and triple lutz-triple toe combo with his trademark flair.

In an attempt to become the oldest competitor on the podium since Todd Eldredge’s victory in 2002, Brown scored 89.02 points.

Later on Friday, in what was set to be a dual for the title, defending champion Isabeau Levito and Amber Glenn were slated to complete their free skates. With a score of 75.38 points in her brief routine on Thursday night, 16-year-old phenomenon Levito led her closest competitor by four tenths of a point.

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