A 4-7 breath of fresh air blew into the U.S. figure skating championships Thursday evening, barely visible above the boards on ice level. But then she started jumping, and the future of American women’s skating became crystal clear.
Alysa Liu, at 13 too young to compete at the next three world championships, isn’t too young to make you wonder if she isn’t setting herself up, with a little luck and a lot of patience, to be a force at the next Winter Olympic Games in 2022 in Beijing.
Liu, the youngest female skater in history to land the triple axel, the toughest triple jump there is, performed nearly flawlessly in the women’s short program, finishing behind only defending national champion Bradie Tennell, 76.60 points to 73.89.
If she skates with the same unbridled joy in Friday’s long program, and lands the two triple axels she has planned, Liu will make the podium in her senior (Olympic level) national debut, one year after winning the junior national title.
"The future looks great tonight," two-time U.S. Olympic coach Audrey Weisiger texted after the competition. Alysa Liu, the 13-year-old wonder, was in second with 73.89 points. “I’m just happy I landed all of my jumps,” Liu said. “It’s my first year at seniors. So super excited.”
America, a star was born Thursday night in Detroit.
Richmond teen Alysa Liu, the country’s most talked about skater in years, landed a difficult triple axel jump while warming up just before making her senior-level debut at the U.S. championships.
Then the girl did it for real in the women’s short program to become the youngest American in history to hit the 3 ½-rotation jump at the championships. Tonya Harding and Kimmie Meissner are the only other skaters to land it at the event.
Alysa Liu, who is 4 feet, 7 inches tall, needed to get to that step after Friday’s free skate at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
Liu stood in front of the podium, quickly sized up the chances of being able to jump from the ice onto the spot she had just earned and then let Bradie Tennell and Mariah Bell reach down to pull her up to the step between them.
It was the only extraordinary leap Liu did not attempt in the past two days.
She pulled off all the others, vaulting into the record books with a combination of insouciance, enthusiasm, ambition and stunning poise under pressure for one so young.
Our figure skating team is on the ground in Detroit to cover the U.S. Championships. This is our behind-the-scenes look at the final competition day, featuring the men’s free skate and the Skating Spectacular.
Alysa Liu’s upcoming TV tour
U.S. Figure Skating’s newest prodigal sensation will get her first taste of celebrity this week.
Four days after becoming the youngest women’s national champion in history, 13-year-old Alysa Liu is set to be in New York for scheduled Tuesday appearances on TODAY and the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
The TODAY appearance is planned for the 8 a.m. hour.
Liu’s outgoing personality, evident in one-on-one interactions if not yet at press conferences, belies her age and her physical stature (4 feet, 7 inches).
In a telephone interview six weeks before nationals, Liu was unafraid to say she was coming to her first senior nationals with lofty goals.
“I hope to win, obviously,” Liu said. “I’d never go into a competition hoping I medal. I always strive for first, even if it’s not possible.”
Alysa Liu, the 13-year-old who became the youngest figure skater ever to win the U.S. Women's Figure Skating championship, sits down on TODAY to talk about what it was like standing up on that podium after stealing the show with two triple axels.
Alysa Liu reacts to her big championship win and talks about the ritual that she has to do before taking the ice!