Ilia Malinin Wins Skating Championship With ‘Succession’ Theme Song Routine


Like the plot of “Succession,” Ilia Malinin’s winning program for the men’s singles competition at the World Figure Skating Championships on Saturday had a lot of twists: six quadruple jumps that included a quadruple axel, a feat involving four and a half rotations in the air.

That those elements were set to the HBO series’ theme song only heightened the drama of Mr. Malinin’s performance.

The moody string music that opens the song had been playing for about 30 seconds when Mr. Malinin, a 19-year-old student at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., executed a quad axel in a costume that resembled a classic tuxedo. Mr. Malinin, who grew up in Fairfax, is the only skater who has landed that jump in competition; he first did so in 2022.

By the time of the “Succession” theme’s piano riffs, he had completed three more quads: a quad lutz, a quad loop and a quad salchow. (His knack for executing quadruple jumps has earned him the nickname Quad God.) Before the end of the roughly four-minute program, he landed two more.

Mr. Malinin started skating to the “Succession” theme last fall, but he has yet to watch the show. “I don’t have a subscription to HBO,” he said in an interview. “But if I did get it, I’d definitely watch.”

The network’s programming has influenced his performances before: Last season, he performed a free skate program set to a selection of music from the series “Euphoria.”

“I didn’t watch ‘Euphoria’ either,” he said, “but I’ve heard it’s a really good series.”

For his “Euphoria” free skate, Mr. Malinin worked with the choreographer Juris Razgulajevs. His performance on Saturday, for which he received the highest score ever for a free skate, was developed by the choreographer Shae-Lynn Bourne.

Ms. Bourne chose the “Succession” theme in part because it had yet to be used in figure skating, a sport for which music selections are often repeated, Mr. Malinin said.

“We played around with how to make the sound work for a figure skating program, to make the program flow better and make it comfortable to perform the elements cleanly,” he said. “We added some sound effects in and changed things to make the music build like it should for a figure skating program.”

Nicholas Britell, who composed the “Succession” theme, said in an email that he was honored that Mr. Malinin chose the music for his skate. “It is really exciting to see the score transcend beyond the TV screen,” Mr. Britell said.

Mr. Malinin said that he almost didn’t attend the recent skating championships because of a “small injury” that kept him off the ice for a week leading up to the event. His total competition score of 333.76 — which was more than 24 points above that of the second-place finisher, Yuma Kagiyama — was representative of the progress Mr. Malinin has made since entering the international senior men’s skating circuit in 2021.

“I never thought I’d be able to achieve this incredible free skate and get this crazy world record,” Mr. Malinin said, adding that learning to land a quad axel jump has motivated him “to become an innovator and game changer.”

His primary coaches, Tatiana Malinina and Roman Skorniakov, are also his parents. Both were Olympic skaters for Uzbekistan and have drawn from that experience while instructing their son. “They tell me not to be so stressed before a competition and how to maximize practice to make it efficient,” Mr. Malinin said. Also advising him is Rafael Arutyunyan, the longtime coach of the American Olympic figure skaters Nathan Chen and Adam Rippon.

Since mastering the quad axel, Mr. Malinin has said he is interested in attempting a quintuple jump, a maneuver that involves five airborne rotations and has never been performed in competition.

In the coming months, Mr. Malinin plans to “take the time to mentally prepare for the idea of trying” the quint jump, he said. “I like to push the boundaries of physical abilities and the boundaries of this sport.”



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