The 19-year-old skater, nicknamed "Quad God" for his exceptional quadruple jump abilities, earned an impressive 108.57 points, putting him in the lead in the men's competition. Maxim Naumov trailed in second with 89.72 points, followed closely by Jason Brown with 89.02 points. The championships are taking place in Columbus, Ohio.
Malinin is set to defend his US crown in the free skate final, which will be held on Sunday. As the son of Russian-born Olympic skaters, he has already made a name for himself in the figure skating world. Notably, he is the only skater to successfully land a quadruple Axel in competition, accomplishing the feat during his senior level debut at Skate America in 2022.
Having won a bronze medal at last year's world championships, Malinin recently emerged victorious at the ISU Grand Prix Final in Beijing. During the competition, he executed a quad Axel in the short program and a quadruple loop in the free skate, becoming the first skater to successfully perform all six types of quad jumps in competition.
In his short program performance on Friday, Malinin did not attempt the quadruple Axel, but he opened with a stunning quadruple toe and followed it with a quadruple lutz triple toe combination. He concluded his routine with a triple Axel, leaving the audience captivated.
Reflecting on the performance, Malinin expressed his gratitude for successfully executing his jumps, despite experiencing several skate malfunctions in the past few weeks. He admitted feeling some nervousness heading into the event but commended the crowd for their energy and support.
As he aims for another national title and solidify his position as a leading contender in the World Championships in Montreal (scheduled for March 18-24), Malinin mentioned that he has yet to decide if he will include the quadruple Axel in his free skate. Given his substantial lead in the standings, it may not be necessary to do so in order for him to secure the victory.
The competition will continue with the women's event, where defending champion Isabeau Levito will be hoping to defend her title. With a short program score of 75.38 points, she currently holds a narrow lead over Amber Glenn (74.98), with Clare Seo in third place (67.41). The decisive free skate will determine the final outcome.
The US Figure Skating Championships continue to showcase the incredible talent and artistry of these remarkable athletes, and fans eagerly await the upcoming performances as they compete for national glory.