Ilia Malinin, a 17-year-old junior at George C. Marshall High School in Idylwood, is serving as the first alternate for the men’s singles team at the Olympic Games this month.
The placement is an honor itself, but with sports continuing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s a higher than usual chance that Malinin could compete in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, which will kick off with the opening ceremony at 6 a.m. tomorrow (Friday).
“As an alternate this year, anyone at any time could test positive, so you just have to be ready to go,” Malinin told Fairfax County Public Schools for a blog post.
Malinin’s parents both competed in the Olympics and had illustrious careers in singles figure skating.
His mother, Tatiana Malinina, finished eighth at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Japan while representing Uzbekistan. His father, Roman Skorniakov, also represented Uzbekistan at the 1998 Games and again in 2002 in Salt Lake City. He finished 19th each time.
Last month, Malinin won second place at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, earning him a silver medal. But U.S. Figure Skating chose Jason Brown, Nathan Chen, and Vincent Zhou for the men’s singles team, a controversial decision that left many heartbroken.
Team selections can include subjective factors, though, and the committee looks at multiple competitions of skaters.
REMEMBER THE NAME.
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) January 9, 2022
The Games run through Feb. 20 with primetime TV coverage on NBC. Live-streamed events will be available through the network’s Peacock streaming service, among other options.
The ice skating schedule has the men’s singles program starting tomorrow with the medal event on Feb. 10.
After facing some disappointment in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics this year, McLean resident and Olympic rower Claire Collins has her sights set on the Paris games in 2024.
Collins, a Princeton University graduate, rowed on the Women’s 4 team. Team USA didn’t medal in the event, but Collins said, overall, the Olympic experience was still “awesome.”
What was it like being at the Olympics? It’s such a unique and rare experience, so I’m really curious what day-to-day life between big events was like.
While it wasn’t a normal Olympics because of all the COVID protocols, the atmosphere and energy was still awesome. It was fun to dress up in Team USA outfits and walk around the [Olympic] Village and head to meals. Because we couldn’t see any other sports or really mingle that much, the dining hall was probably the most fun place. We were still allowed to eat there, so you got to see tons of athletes from all over. We were also still able to trade pins with people from other countries and sports, so that was a fun way to meet other athletes.
Unfortunately, we were not allowed to see other sports or go outside of the rowing venue or the village, so we had fun at the Team USA building and around the village.
Overall, how do you feel about the results of the race?
I am a little disappointed because I still believe our boat is faster than at least the first two races we had. Our final was definitely a better race, but still I don’t think it was quite our best. However, you are never going to get a perfect race. Considering the crazy year of COVID we had, the fact we didn’t get to race at all before we raced at the Olympics (which meant many people in our boat hadn’t raced in years), and that our boat was put together 6 weeks before the Games, I am very proud of what we did there. We learned from and improved each race and came out with a good finish.
When you’re in McLean, do you train on the Potomac? What’s that like?
I actually have barely rowed in the D.C. area. I went to boarding school and then to Princeton, so when I was home for the pandemic last summer, it was the first time I actually spent time on the Potomac. I rowed out of Potomac Boat Club and they were very welcoming. It was neat to actually row where I live finally after rowing all over the US and the world.
What’s next for you now that you’re back from Tokyo?
I am enjoying some vacation. When we are training in the years leading up to the Olympics we don’t even really get holidays off, so I am really excited for some real vacation and traveling coming up. Long term, I am looking forward to training to make the Paris 2024 games in 3 years, so I will be back to rowing and the team later this fall. But I will be doing some work and helping advance my career hopefully along the way.
You graduated from Princeton with a degree in economics. Is rowing your main career or do you work in something different?
Since I graduated in 2019, rowing has been my main “career.” However, I have done some work for 2 different startups and I am looking forward to focusing a little more on my career path in the next few years. I am interested in pursuing work in finance or the business and investing side of healthcare.
What kind of impact did the delay from the pandemic have? What was it like dealing with the pandemic protocols in Tokyo?
It had a big impact.
First off, while we train intensely all the time, the year leading up to the Olympics is especially intense, and it is totally unusual that we go through that process twice.
Secondly, I would not usually spend 6 months at home during a year (I usually get a week or two), so that was very unique and created its own challenges but also bonuses too, getting to spend time with family.
Lastly, while our focus and effort was always there, our training was disrupted quite a bit. We rowed in singles from March of 2020 through to February of 2021, meaning we did not even get to practice or train in the boats that we would be racing until a couple months before the Games.
Half of our team got COVID in spring of 2020 and one teammate tested positive in the fall of 2020. Each of these events sent people into bubbles and prevented us from seeing each other or operating normally. Luckily, we got our vaccines in the spring of 2021, and while that was amazing, that even paused some of our training briefly while people recovered from some of the side effects.
Emotionally, it was distracting, but I am proud of how our team handled it and kept things in perspective. There was little complaining and we all understood how lucky we were to be safe and healthy and still doing what we enjoy.
But for our success at the Games, at least in our sport, it was evident that the countries that handled the pandemic relatively well had greater success as a team. Obviously success is measured in different ways, so in our pursuit, I think there were a lot of successes, even just getting there and being able to compete.
I felt very safe in Tokyo. We had a long processing segment to get from the plane to the Village, but once there we tested every day and had a health screening app we filled out daily. We wore masks everywhere. There were tons of sanitizing stations. There were plexiglass barriers in the dining hall and you had to wear plastic gloves to get your food.
The Japanese did an amazing job, not just with COVID but with organization and still making the games special and exciting. All the volunteers were so welcoming and excited to see us. It was really special.
Updated at 4:20 p.m. on 8/8/2021 — Trevor Stewart will bring home a gold medal after the U.S. won the final men’s 4×400-meter relay on Saturday (Aug. 7), beating the Netherlands, which won silver, and Botswana, which got the bronze medal in the event.
Earlier: Lead-off runner Trevor Stewart helped his team secure the top qualifying spot in the 4×400 meter relay today (Friday) at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which could mean another medal for him in his first Games.
A former South County High School student, Stewart ran 44.79 seconds for Team USA’s combined time of 2:57.77, the fastest time posted for the Olympic Games in Tokyo not only for the Americans in their qualifying heat, but also against a second qualifying heat of eight other teams.
The event’s final race will take place at 8:50 a.m. EDT tomorrow (Saturday).
The Lorton native’s time was slightly faster than his other lead-off leg for the 4×400 meter mixed relay, where Team USA won a bronze medal last Saturday (July 31). This year marked the first time that the Olympics featured the event, where men and women compete together.
“When you believe in yourself, anything can be accomplished,” the 24-year-old said in an Instagram post published on Aug. 1 after the race.
In the mixed relay race, Stewart and teammates Kendall Ellis, Kaylin Whitney, and Vernon Norwood finished with a collective time of 3:10.22. They replaced another American team that was initially disqualified. The U.S. was allowed to continue after the decision was appealed and overturned.
During the men’s qualifying race, which aired live this morning due to Tokyo’s 13-hour time difference, Stewart handed off the baton to former college teammate Randolph Ross, but the two had a slight hiccup in which Ross reached for the baton twice.
Stewart, who has been asthmatic since childhood, helped his North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University team win NCAA championship titles earlier this year, running the 4×400 meter race in 44.67 seconds and 44.17 seconds indoors and outdoors, respectively. He finished his college career with the A&T Aggies anchoring those races.
That team also included Ross, who will be a sophomore at A&T when classes begin Aug. 18.
Ross was the only teammate continuing with Stewart on the U.S. men’s 4×400 Olympic team as their other teammates moved forward with their home countries: Akeem Sirleaf represented Liberia and Daniel Stokes represented Mexico.
Stewart isn’t the only former FCPS student competing in this year’s Olympics. Other local athletes include swimmer Andrew Seliskar, discus thrower Chioma “CiCi” Onyekwere, shooter Lucas Kozeniesky, and West Potomac High School graduate Keyshawn Davis, who will be in contention for the boxing gold medal on Sunday (Aug. 8).
Photo courtesy USATF
Several Olympians competing on the world stage in Tokyo this summer can trace parts of their athletic journeys back to Fairfax County.
Swimmer Andrew Seliskar, discus thrower Chioma “CiCi” Onyekwere, and runner Trevor Stewart all qualified for the 2020 Olympics, which will take place from July 21 to Aug. 8.
The games were delayed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and they will be held without spectators after Japan announced on Friday (July 9) that it would enter a fourth state of emergency starting today (Monday) due to rising cases of the virus.
Seliskar, who graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in 2015, is taking on his first Olympics after two previous qualifying attempts at ages 19 and 15, including one where he “narrowly missed” a semi-final spot.
As a student, he broke a national high school record for the 100-yard butterfly in 2014 near Richmond with 53.24 seconds, and he won four national titles swimming at the University of California in Berkeley before becoming a professional swimmer.
The 24-year-old McLean native told Fairfax County Public Schools that he relishes his competitions against high school rivals.
“Those were great memories, and for my swimming career, those are some of the best ones,” he said.
Heats for the men’s 4×200-meter freestyle relay are scheduled for 6-8:30 a.m. EDT on July 27, and the final will air from 9:30 p.m. EDT on July 27 to 12:05 a.m. EDT on July 28.
Robinson Secondary School graduate Onyekwere will represent Nigeria at the Olympics, since she is a dual citizen of that country and the U.S.
“I feel like Nigeria made me the person I am today, so it’s so nice to give back in some kind of way and represent them,” she told FCPS.
The Michigan-born former University of Maryland athlete currently holds Nigeria’s discus throw record of 63.3 meters, which she set in April in Chula Vista, California, as part of the Nigerian Olympic Trials.
The 27-year-old engineer works for Ford and relocated back to Fairfax County last fall to be with family amid the pandemic, FCPS noted.
The qualifying round for the women’s discus throw is 8:30 p.m. EDT July 30, and the final is 7 a.m. EDT Aug. 2.
Stewart, who graduated from South County High School in 2016, will run the 4×400-meter relay race for Team USA.
His teammates include a fellow student at North Carolina A&T State University. The pair were part of a 4×400 relay team that won national titles this year for the indoor and outdoor track seasons, capping his senior year.
The 24-year-old switched from karate to track and field when he was in ninth grade. To prepare for the upcoming games, he has turned to prayer and meditation, according to FCPS.
“I worked hard for this,” he told FCPS. “There’s always room for improvement, but I’ve made it right now. I’ve made it right here.”
Heats for the men’s 4×400 meter relay are slated for 7:25 a.m. EDT Aug. 6 and 8:50 a.m. EDT Aug. 7 for the final.