February 25, 2021

INFRMER

KEEPING YOU INFRMED

US Figure Skating: Alysa Liu is 2nd behind Olympian Bradie Tennell

Alysa Liu of Richmond did not have a triple axel in her short program Thursday night at the US Figure Skating Championships in Las Vegas.

But Liu, 15, performed masterfully as a mature skater in placing second to 2018 Olympian Bradie Tennell.

Despite a personal best, Liu was three points behind Tennell, who scored a US championships record 79.40 points heading into the free skate Friday night.

Liu might have trouble becoming the first skater since Michelle Kwan to win three consecutive US crowns if Tennell stays upright Friday.

The Illinois skater has rarely looked better with precision jumps and divine skating set to the music of “Moderation” by Florence and The Machine.

“That was the most relaxed I ever skated at any competition,” she said. “It was just so much fun.”

Liu won the previous two titles by virtue of better jumps than any other American woman. But she has focused on skating elegance in what will be her only competition of the season because of COVID-19-forced cancellations.

Liu decided not to include two triple axels and a quadruple lutz in her free skate. So she will have to overcome Tennell’s lead by skating flawlessly.

On Thursday, Liu’s jumps were superb, as usual. But she finished only fourth in the program component scores that measure the artistic side of the sport.

The scores, known as PCS, are the ones her new coaches Massimo Scali and Jeremy Abbott have emphasized in the past year. They wanted to show a more balanced skater at these championships.

Liu, who has grown three or four inches since winning the 2020 title, achieved what her coaches had laid out. She left the ice with her signature infectious smile.

“That’s how I would do my program in practices so I was really happy,” Liu said.

Liu skated to music from the Frederico Fellini move, “La Strada.” The program suited her adult-like personality after winning US titles at ages 13 and 14.

She completed a triple flip, double axel and triple lutz-triple toe combination with ease. The total of 76.36 points was her best short program score by one point.

“I’m not thinking about placement right now,” Liu said. “I am thinking more of doing my best in the long.”

Tennell, who like Liu changed coaches this season, has been in this position before. She won the short program the past two years only to see Liu pass her in the free skate.

She won the US championship in 2018 when Tennell led the Americans at the Winter Olympics in South Korea. Now she wants the title back.

“It’s one of those things that can be overwhelming,” Tennell said. “I choose to keep it tucked away in the back of my mind. It’s always there but not on a billboard. It’s in a drawer. ”

The other Bay Area skater in the women’s singles competition, Karen Chen of Fremont, also left the rink satisfied. Chen, a 2018 Olympian, placed fourth behind third-place Mariah Bell in her comeback attempt.

Chen took the school year off from Cornell University to return to Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she trains.

“It wasn’t worth paying full tuition and not having the whole college experience,” Chen said.

Also, living alone has helped her growth, Chen said. She looked calm than in recent years with a solid performance at the Orleans Arena. But the time at Cornell also opened her horizons.

“Skating is still my world but there is more than just skating,” she said.

Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier had a successful run in their first national championships as a new team. The couple that started training 10 months ago easily won the short program. They have a 6.16-point lead heading into the free skate on Saturday.

They scored 77.46 after successfully landing side-by-side triple toe loops and a throw triple loop. Last year’s runners-up Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson were in second place.


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