Figure Skating

All eyes on Alysa Liu as U.S. champion begins first junior international season

The 14-year-old American figure skating champion makes her debut at the ISU Junior Grand Prix in Lake Placid, New York, having been too young last season.

By ZK Goh ·

Get ready, world: Alysa Liu is finally here and ready to show what she can do.

The U.S. figure skating national champion has now met the age requirements to compete internationally on the junior circuit.

Liu will make her debut on the ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series at the second event of the season in Lake Placid at the Herb Brooks Arena, which hosted ice hockey and figure skating at the 1980 Winter Olympics.

This year's Junior Grand Prix is the 23rd season of the series for skaters aged 13 to 19 (with a cut-off date of 1 July). Liu, who turned 14 on 8 August, missed the cut last season.

From triple Axel to quad Lutz

The U.S. Nationals in Detroit in January marked Liu's senior debut. Still just 13 then, she was ineligible for international competition at both senior and junior-level events.

But that didn't stop her from wowing the crowd, landing three clean triple Axels in her skates – one in her short program and two in her free skate, including one in combination.

To put her triple Axels into context, only three other American women have ever landed the jump: Tonya Harding and Kimmie Meissner first did it at the 1991 and 2005 U.S. Nationals respectively, and Mirai Nagasu last year at PyeongChang 2018.

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"I don't skate to lose," the teenager declared.

The rules say she can't lose – at least not at that level internationally.

She remains unable to compete in senior International Skating Union events for the next two seasons, thanks to her birthday falling after the cut-off.

Liu's first senior international season is likely to be 2021/2022, which means we could well see her compete in her father's home country of China at the Beijing 2022 Winter Games.

"I get more time to practice before I have to compete against the best skaters in the world," she remarked to the San Francisco Chronicle.

At a sports festival in New York state last Saturday (24 August), Liu landed a quadruple Lutz – although it doesn't count, as it didn't happen in an official ISU or national competition.

No American woman has completed a quad jump in official competition. Sasha Cohen achieved a quad Salchow in practice 18 years ago.

'Normal' life

The Oakland skater doesn't come from what might be thought of as a 'typical' family.

She has four younger siblings, and all five children are being raised by their single father Arthur. The five children were all born to two different surrogate mothers through anonymous donor eggs.

Liu conducts her studies online in between training sessions, but told a Team USA profile she still gets to "do what a normal teen does".

"I do spend time with my friends," she said. But, the skating sensation added, there are some concessions she has to make.

"I don’t get to eat junk a lot – maybe, like, once in a while – that’s fine. And then I also don’t get to have sleepovers every single day, I know some people do.

"It’s mainly because I have to train and travel so much."

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Zagitova inspiration

As she prepares for her first international season, what's next for the 14-year-old?

In order to keep up with the Russians, Liu will probably need a quadruple jump in her routine.

Alexandra Trusova, the two-time junior world champion, landed two quadruple toe-loop jumps (and fell on a third quad, a Lutz) in her free program in last year's final. Trusova was also the first female skater ever to land a quad jump in competition when she landed two in the 2017/18 final.

But it's Trusova's training partner, the reigning Olympic champion Alina Zagitova, herself still only 17, who Liu says she looks up to.

That could be a very intriguing match-up to watch at Beijing 2022.