by Liz Leamy
Alysa Liu backstage with fellow competitor Star Andrews
Alysa Liu with past Men's Champion Jeremy Abbott
(13 February 2019) In January, the skating world and the American public was stunned by Alysa Liu, the tiny 13 year-old California jumping jack who clinched the 2019 U.S. Senior Ladies title with her remarkable array of jumps (which included three triple Axels combined in the short and long programs), making 2019 a memorable Nationals on many fronts.
Liu’s triumphant feat put her in the history books for two reasons: first, she is the only female to have ever executed three triple Axels in this event thus far; and secondly, because she is the youngest skater to have ever won a U.S. ladies title.
Liu’s resounding victory inspired everyone present at the Little Caesars Arena in Downtown Detroit on that memorable Friday afternoon when the U.S. ladies event was held.
At the conclusion to her compelling free skate to the ‘Witches of Eastwick’ film score (an ideal fit for her personality and style), spectators in the packed arena gave Liu a standing ovation, while members of the media could be seen smiling and nodding over this young girl’s huge accomplishment.
In the days following her win, the internet, newspapers and other social and media news outlets were flooded with information on Liu’s historic feat, instantly turning her into a major media sensation and also candidate to help affect the growth and popularity of this sport among the biggest and most influential demographic of all, the general public.
The only drawback of this situation, however, was the fact that Liu, who just turned 13 last August, is ineligible to compete at the 2019 World Championships (or the 2020 and 2021 Worlds, for that matter) due to her age as the International Skating Union rule states that all contenders must have turned 15 by the competition’s entry deadline. She is even too young to compete at the World Junior Championships this year.
Still, Liu’s accomplishment stands as a benchmark moment for the sport both on a domestic and world scale, with Tara Lipinsky, the NBC figure skating commentator and 1998 U.S. Olympic Champion saying she is ‘the future of U.S. skating’ on her Twitter feed.
A Clovis, California native, Liu, the oldest of five children, seems to have all the right stuff to make it to the top of the world ladder, especially in noting her determination, attitude and spirit in just wanting to be her best. Once Nationals wrapped up, Liu went home and started working on her quads, attesting she is all about building her own standard.
Liu works with Laura Lipetsky, a former U.S. ladies competitor who was trained by the iconic U.S. Olympic coach Frank Carroll (who is now retired).
Lipetsky, who has been coaching Liu since age five, the year she first started skating at the Oakland Ice Center, has guided her to the 2016 U.S. Intermediate and 2018 U.S. junior titles, and now the 2019 U.S. Championship title.
In addition to this incredibly effective partnership, Liu is also close with her dad, Arthur, an attorney who is always very amiable and kind with everyone he runs into at competitions, as well as her siblings (a younger sister and triplets-a sister and two brothers).
At the Nationals press conferences, Liu said she enjoys biking, hanging out and playing with her sisters and brothers during her free time, which is paramount in regard to maintaining the right balance with an intensive competitive lifestyle.
Last July, Liu blew away the crowd when she performed at a summer show at Westchester Skating Academy in Elmsford, New York.
That event, titled the ‘Ice Dreams Skating Spectacular,’ also featured Mirai Nagasu, the seven-time U.S. medalist known also for landing triple Axels; Jeremy Abbott, the four-time U.S. champion; Karen Chen, the 2017 U.S. titlist; Starr Andrews, the 2017 U.S. junior silver medalist; and Rohene Ward, former national competitor and now coach and choreographer.
There, Liu performed her short program to Maxime’s ‘Lo Siento’ and opened up with a triple Axel then did a triple flip as well as fast, well-formed spins that drew loud cheers from the packed arena.
During that week prior to the show, Liu, along with the other performers, participated in helping campers with their jumps, spins and other skating elements in clinics, something she said she very much enjoyed.
“It’s been fun to skate with everyone here,” said Liu, at the conclusion of that show. “It was great to be here.”
Liu also mentioned, after performing in the show, that she had been working on consistency with all of her jumps, including the triple Axel, a goal that she proved to have resolutely checked off at the 2019mU.S. Championships in Detroit.
“I just want to get really consistent (on the triple Axel) and want to get some quads,” said Liu then, who landed her first (clean) Axel at age six, in regard to her goals.
Based upon this interaction and the results produced by this firecracker athlete thus far, it seems she certainly possesses the ability to accomplish practically any task she sets her mind to, making her an inspiration as well as vital role model for many, particularly the all-important pool of aspiring up-and-coming skaters here in the U.S.