A pint-sized figure skater made history this weekend, as she took home the gold at the U.S. Nationals in Detroit.
At just 13, Alysa Liu became the youngest skater to ever take the top spot in the women’s division, dethroning Tara Lipinski, who won a national championship at 14.
And Liu's impressive routine broke other records as she spun, jumped, and landed in the history books.
The tiny Liu - she’s only 4’7” - had to be pulled up onto the podium by her competitors after taking first place with a groundbreaking performance.
She earned high marks from judges for landing two triple axels in one routine. The devilishly hard jumps involve taking off backwards before spinning several times and landing on the opposite foot.
Liu is only the fourth female American skater to ever land the triple axel in competition, joining skating legends like Tonya Harding, Kimmie Meissner, and Mirai Nagasu in the elite club. But landing two triple axels in one routine is an achievement only Liu can boast - not bad for someone who can barely even be called a teenager!
Liu, 13, also breathlessly landed a triple flip and then a triple lutz-triple toeloop combination in the 2 ½-minute program performed to Barbra Streisand’s “Don’t Rain on My Parade.”
She got downgraded minus 0.08 of a point for underrotating the last jump in the combination but it added up to a dominating performance that judges rewarded with 73.89 points. Yet, it was well behind reigning U.S. champion Bradie Tennell’s commanding show.
Liu stole the show Friday night, breezing through a free skate that included two triple axels and dethroning 2018 winner Bradie Tennell at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Liu became the youngest winner of an individual title at this event, and after her score was posted, she put her hands over her face, overcome with emotion.
“I was just happy that I beat my personal record, and I did a clean long program,” Liu said.
The youngest champion in U.S. Women's Figure Skating history, 13-year-old Alysa Liu, reacts to her historic win and shows Jimmy one of her competition rituals.
What Liu did on Friday night—overtaking older, more experienced skaters who are eligible to compete on the senior circuit—was not an isolated incident in the world of women’s figure skating. At last month’s Russian national championships, the top three positions were held by skaters who were also age-ineligible for this year’s senior world championships. (Though they are, unlike Liu, eligible for junior worlds. Liu’s birthdate is about five weeks shy of the cutoff mark, so she was unable to take part in this season’s junior Grand Prix circuit. The most she could do is enter an “advanced novice” competition, against skaters she has already beaten.) The first senior age-eligible skater at the Russian championships was Stanislava Konstantinova, who came in fourth. 2018 Olympic champion Alina Zagitova finished fifth. Sofia Samodurova, who, a month later, would skate to the 2019 European title, was sixth. And two-time world champion Evgenia Medvedeva, who has struggled all season long, was seventh.
What Liu and the young Russians all have in common beyond relative youth—no one we’re talking about is truly “old”—is supernal jumping ability aided by their small size. Liu became the first U.S. woman to land a triple axel in both her long and short programs at nationals. In fact, she did two in her long—the first in combination with a double toe loop. Some of the Russian girls, like junior world champion Alexandra Trusova, can do quad jumps. In Trusova’s case, she can do more than one and in combination with other jumps. When Trusova debuted her quad in competition last year, she was the first woman to rotate one since 2002 when Miki Ando did it. Like Trusova, Ando was a junior when she successfully competed the jump.
Liu had already landed a triple axel in the short program Thursday, and she was in second place behind Tennell entering Friday. Tennell fell during her long program, and Liu, skating immediately after, seized the opportunity.
Her first triple axel was in combination with a double toe loop. Then she landed another triple axel, and by the time she finished her performance — set to “Witches of Eastwick” by John Williams — she was beaming.
This weekend in Detroit, Alysa Liu won the senior ladies national title. Yet despite that, Liu won’t be competing at the 2019 world championships in Saitama, Japan. Those berths will go to second and third place finishers, Bradie Tennell and Mariah Bell. Disqualifying Liu is the fact that she’s 13 years old.
Alysa Liu is the youngest skater in history to win the national title. Back on her home ice, she skated a light workout and enjoyed being back with her friends. Don Ford reports. (1-31-19)
Alysa Liu’s first day home after becoming the youngest person to ever win a U.S. figure-skating championship began with practice at Oakland Ice Center, a smile lighting up her face the entire time.
As she exited the rink, she was followed by a swarm of cameras, reporters and other adults with their phones out, taking pictures. She headed straight to a group of her friends, started giggling, and pulled out her favorite thing. Not her gold medal, which she had given to her dad.
A big jar of turquoise-colored homemade slime.“I love it,” she said of playing with the sticky substance.
Yes, America’s new skating champion is a 13-year-old kid. Liu left Detroit with a championship last weekend and headed for a New York whirlwind, doing the “Today Show” and Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show,” which she handled with ease.