Richmond’s Alysa Liu, 13, wins gold at U.S. Figure Skating Championships

DETROIT — Alysa Liu was already a phenom. Now she’s a national champion at age 13.

The Richmond teen stole the show Friday night, breezing through a free skate that included two triple axels and dethroning 2018 winner Bradie Tennell at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Liu became the youngest winner of an individual title at this event, and after her score was posted, she put her hands over her face, overcome with emotion .

“I was just happy that I beat my personal record, and I did a clean long program,” Liu said.

Liu, who already had landed a triple axel in the short program Thursday, was in second place behind Tennell entering Friday. Tennell fell during her long program, and Liu, skating immediately after, seized the opportunity. Her first triple axel was in combination with a double toe loop. Then she landed another triple axel, and by the time she finished her performance — set to “The Witches of Eastwick” by John Williams — she was beaming.

Tara Lipinski had been the youngest women’s champion at nationals, winning at age 14 in 1997, and Scott Allen also was 14 when he won in 1964. Now a commentator with NBC, Lipinski was there Friday when her record fell.

“Records are made to be broken,” Lipinski said. “It is quite an honor that she is the one to do it. What a phenomenal talent.”

Earlier Friday, Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue took a step toward defending their ice dancing title, finishing atop the standings after the rhythm dance. Hubbell and Donohue will compete for their second straight national championship in the free dance Saturday.

The women’s competition was without several big names, with Karen Chen, Mirai Nagasu and Gracie Gold all missing it for various reasons. Now Liu looks like she could provide a boost for American figure skating. The U.S. hasn’t won an Olympic medal in women’s figure skating since 2006.

The 4-foot, 7-inch Liu had already turned heads in August when she became the youngest woman to land a triple axel in international competition. On Friday, she showed poise and ability on a big stage, although international stardom may have to wait a bit. Under the current age restriction, she’s not even eligible to compete at worlds until 2022.

“I’m not too worried about that part,” Liu said. “Because I get more time to work on my jumps, skating skills, spins, and just trying to learn more.”

Liu received a score of 217.51. Tennell finished second at 213.59, and Mariah Bell was third. Tennell stepped out of a triple loop in a combination early in her program, and she fell attempting a triple lutz.

Noah Trister is an Associated Press writer.

This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Richmond-s-Alysa-Liu-becomes-youngest-13563403.php.

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