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2020 Nationals: Senior Ladies Free Skate

Liu Lands Second U.S. Title

by Liz Leamy


(25 January 2020)   Alysa Liu, the 14 year-old firecracker California native who famously clinched the U.S. ladies title at the 2019 U.S. Championships with a history-making arsenal of jumps, claimed a second consecutive U.S. title on Friday night after knocking out two solid triple Axels in the free skate.

This talented and driven contender, whose goal is to continue improving herself’ and ‘hopefully keep making history’ with her on-ice work, outscored the deep 18-member field of contenders, all of who executed exceptional triple jumps and spins as well as highly entertaining programs, with a 235.52.

Skating to ‘Illumination’ by Jennifer Thomas, Liu opened up with a triple Axel-double toe loop and triple Axel, which generated a big response from the packed crowd at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex.

Liu, who trains in the San Jose area, also executed a quad Lutz (for which she received a slight rotational deduction), triple Lutz-half Euler-triple Salchow, triple Lutz-triple toe loop, triple flip and triple loop, which, coupled with her triple Axels, rendering her the highest technical score of the event, a 91.75.

At the same time, Liu did some beautiful spins as well as a host of classic skating moves such as spirals and an Ina Bauer that generated loud applause from the crowd.

Liu is coached by Laura Lepitsky, a former U.S. ladies contender who was trained by Frank Carroll, an iconic teaching figure of the sport and had her program choreographed by Lori Nichol, a master craftsperson who did work with past champions such as Michelle Kwan, the nine-time U.S. titlist, five-time World gold medalist and two-time Olympic medalist as well as Evan Lysacek, the 2010 Olympic victor, both of whose influence seems to be profound on her.

Liu skated with notable feeling and understanding of her music and reflected much of the same type of artistry that is consistent with Nichol’s world-renowned brand.

Meanwhile, her jumps featured the same lightning-quick rotation and attack as that of Tara Lipinski, the esteemed 1998 Olympic champion and NBC figure skating analyst who scored gold at 15 years old, which was interesting to note. (The age rules to compete at an Olympics were since changed to 16, making Liu eligible in 2022.)

For Liu, it’s all about putting out her best efforts at all times.

“My goal was to just do my best,” said Liu, who will be eligible to start competing at the Championship World level in two years, which means she will not be competing at the Worlds in Montreal this March. “This year I’m thinking about the new decade and I just want to keep improving myself.”

Mariah Bell, 23, brought down the house with her spellbinding and technically clean program to ‘Hallelujah’ by K.D. Lang that put her in the second-highest position on the leaderboard.

Skating with incredible speed, strength, passion and power, Bell commanded the ice with the prowess and presence of a top international contender, and racked up the highest program component scores of the competition, a 75.37.

This emotional and moving program, designed by the Shae-Lynn Bourne, the 2003 Canadian World ice dance champion (with Victor Kraatz), had a major effect over the crowd, who gave her a thunderous standing ovation at its conclusion.

Upon leaving the ice, an emotional Bell sat down in the Kiss and Cry area with her coaches, Rafael Arutyunyan and Adam Rippon, the renowned 2018 Olympian and 2016 U.S. titlist, who she hugged and thanked while watching her marks go up on the scoreboard, a 225.21, which put her in the lead prior to Liu going out on the ice as the final contender.

For Bell, the night was a runaway victory in all regards, with the most important thing being the fact that she was able to share her love of skating with everyone there.

“The coolest thing about it was how into it the crowd was. They were so loud and it was so cool,” said Bell, who lives and trains in the Los Angeles area. “It was a very special feeling and I haven’t had that before. I just love to share what I get to do.”

Bradie Tennell, the 2018 U.S. titlist and 2019 U.S. silver medalist, clinched bronze with a stellar and compelling program to ‘Cinema Paradiso’ by Ennio Morricone, which helped her earn a 220.86 total score.

Tennell, 21, a Chicago-area native, flew around the ice with terrific speed, command and confidence, knocking out two triple Lutz-triple toe loops, a triple flip-double toe loop, triple Salchow and double Axel, as well as super-fast, beautifully formed spins.

Skating with incredible sophistication and presence, Tennell, like Liu and Bell, was a big hit with the crowd, which was exciting to see.

Tennell did, however, miss a triple loop.

Still, her program was exceptional, which was indicated in the final score tally.

For Tennell, who had been dealing with arm-related issues all week, this represented a successful venture.

“It’s been a really crazy week,” said Tennell. “I only felt like myself this afternoon.”