Joosep Martinson—International Skating Union/Getty Images
September 28, 2022 6:00 AM EDT

A handful of people know what it feels like to launch yourself into the air from the razor-thin edge of a skate blade, rotate 4½ times, and glide back down on the ice. But only one person knows what it feels like to successfully do that during an international competition: Ilia Malinin. The 17-year-old from Virginia became the first skater to land the challenging quadruple Axel in competition in September, setting a new standard in the sport of figure skating and cementing his stature as a rising star. “I’ve always wanted to do it,” he says. “The mental side plays a huge role, because you have to fully commit to the takeoff—that’s the only way you will be able to rotate it fully.”

Malinin, who is coached by his parents, both former competitive figure skaters from Uzbekistan, says the magnitude of his historic feat hasn’t fully sunk in yet. But he’s already looking toward a new goal as he trains to make the Olympic team in 2026. “Now that I’ve officially done [the quad Axel], I’m a lot more confident in trying new things.”

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