New US skating champ only 13

Alysa Liu won't be old enough to take part in the World Figure Skating Championships until 2022.
Alysa Liu won't be old enough to take part in the World Figure Skating Championships until 2022.PHOTO: REUTERS

Prodigy Alysa Liu hailed as the 'future of US ladies skating' after winning free skate event

DETROIT • Alysa Liu is so young that she is not eligible to compete in the next three World Figure Skating Championships.

But Tara Lipinski, who was rinkside at the Little Caesars Arena doing commentary for NBC, has every confidence that Liu is the "future of United States' ladies skating".

Lipinski made her proclamation after witnessing the 13-year-old Liu clinch the free skate competition at the US Figure Skating Championships - the youngest to do so.

Liu stole the show by landing eight triples to finish with a 217.51 total score, putting her almost four points ahead of defending champion and runner-up Bradie Tennell.

On Thursday, she had become only the third woman to land a triple axel cleanly at a US nationals after Tonya Harding (1991) and Kimmie Meissner (2005).

On Friday night, she went one better to become the first to land two in a programme.

"All that hard work really paid off," said an emotional Liu. "It sunk in right after I did it and then it kind of went away.

"I'm just waiting for it to sink back in again. I was just happy that I beat my personal record, and I did a clean long programme."

Lipinski, who at 14 had been the youngest national women's champion herself, was left in little doubt that Liu could surpass her feats.

Her coach Laura Lipetsky held this belief despite an unusually high number of Olympians and former national champions, who either withdrew or decided not to travel to Detroit, where the US Figure Skating Championships were held.

Among the non-attendees were three-time national champion Ashley Wagner, and Olympic bronze medallists Gracie Gold, Karen Chen and Mirai Nagasu.

However, 1998 Nagano Games gold medallist Lipinski still felt it was a watershed moment as "records are made to be broken".

Writing on her Instagram page, she said: "I couldn't be more excited that @alysaxliu was the one to break it. What a phenomenal talent. So well-deserved.

"Twenty-two years ago, I tried to push the technical envelope and now

"Alysa has taken it to the next level. My bet was on her from the start and she will be the one to push the next generation forward.

"It is quite an honour that she is the one to do it."

According to The San Francisco Chronicle, Liu is the eldest of five children born to two surrogate mothers.

Arthur, her China-born single father, is a lawyer who left the country after the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and has supported his daughter by scheduling court appearances around her events.

He will not have to request time off for this year's world championships, which will be held in March in Saitama, Japan as skaters must have turned 15 by July 1 of last year to be eligible.

Liu, who was born on Aug 8, 2005, will also miss the 2020 and 2021 editions unless the eligibility requirement is changed.

But she is not concerned about missing the world championships, claiming that it will give her "more time to learn more and work on my jumps, skills and spins".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 28, 2019, with the headline 'New US skating champ only 13'. Print Edition | Subscribe