How East Bay figure skater Alysa Liu is transforming a year before the Beijing Olympics

OAKLAND — Alysa Liu no longer looks like the tiny figure skater with the oh-my-gosh expressions and head-spinning jumps.

The Richmond teen appears to have stepped off the stage of Extreme Makeover as she prepares to defend her U.S. figure skating title this week in Las Vegas.

The skater with the biggest jumps ever performed by an American woman has undergone a host of changes in the past year, leading to new expectations for her only major competition of the season.

“The goal is to present a new Alysa,” said Massimo Scali, one of her new coaches. “A mature, beautiful, elegant, secure skater.”

Liu, the two-time reigning U.S. champion, has experienced a challenging year that included changing coaches, searching for open ice rinks because of COVID-19 restrictions and experiencing a growth spurt.

Then she tumbled in late October trying to land a triple axel jump during practice in Las Vegas. Liu, 15, said she suffered a right hip injury after smacking the ice hard on the 3 ½ rotation jump.

She did not complete her signature triple jumps at the team-only Las Vegas Invitational the day after the fall.

“I wanted to compete anyway with doubles,” she said. “It hurt.”

Liu said the injury has healed after forgoing triple jumps for about a month. She recently started working on triple axels but plans to compete for her third consecutive U.S. title this week without big jumps that catapulted her to American figure skating fame.

Liu said she shelved two triple axels and quadruple lutz in the free skate in favor of a more balanced program that emphasizes her budding artistic side.

As a result, Liu is not the favorite heading into the women’s short program Thursday at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Las Vegas, which moved from San Jose because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The free skate is scheduled for Friday at Orleans Arena.

Alysa Liu holds her gold medal after winning the title during the 2019 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) 

The championships arguably will be Liu’s first real competition since she finished third at the 2020 Junior World Championships last March just as the novel coronavirus pandemic exploded.

Liu has experienced perhaps the most change in her career since bursting onto the scene at 13 to become the youngest senior U.S. champion in history in 2019.

In a year in which she has grown three to four inches Liu also has changed coaches, a common practice in the sport.

Laura Lipetsky of Alameda had coached her since age 5. But since June, Liu has trained with Scali, a three-time Olympic ice dancer for Italy. They added four-time U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott to the team later in the year, and Toronto-based coach Lee Barkell serves as a consultant.

“Laura gave her a great foundation and she created Alysa Liu,” Abbott said. “We’re just taking the work she has done and expanding on that.”

Liu said she wanted to try something new and “in …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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