Alysa Liu became the youngest senior ladies figure skating national champion in U.S. history by defeating defending champion Bradie Tennell at the championships in Detroit on Friday.
At 13 years old, Liu beat the record that Tara Lipinski set in 1997 when, at 14-years old, Lipinski won the ladies senior title and then went on to win the world title that year over Michelle Kwan.
Liu won’t be able to pull off the latter accomplishment. Age minimums in skating have changed since Lipinski’s and Kwan’s time. She is not age-eligible to skate at international senior events until the 2022 Olympic season. Hell, she’s too young to compete at the upcomping junior world championships, missing the birthdate cutoff by five weeks. Silver medalist Tennell and bronze medalist Mariah Bell were selected to compete at the 2019 senior worlds in Japan.
In addition to becoming the youngest women’s champion, Liu also became the first American woman to successfully perform two triple axels in the long program at nationals. She also is the first U.S. woman to successfully land a triple axel in the short program at national championships.
While her diminutive stature—she’s only 4 feet 7 inches tall—certainly helps her rotate her jumps, it did present a challenge when it came to mounting the winner’s podium last night. She needed to be helped up by Tennell and Bell.
This year’s competition was the first national championships held in Detroit since the infamous attack on Nancy Kerrigan in 1994. But Detroit was also the place where another 13-year-old skater made a splash. Twenty-five years ago, the young teen in question was Kwan. She placed second behind Tonya Harding, who was later stripped of that national title by U.S. Figure Skating after she plead guilty to hindering the investigation into the attack on her rival. (Harding also received a lifetime ban from U.S. Figure Skating.) The rest of the competition results weren’t changed, however, so Kwan didn’t become a 13-year-old national champion after the fact.
Still, I’d say that Kwan went onto have a pretty good career after those championships, winning five world titles, two Olympic medals, and nine national championships.
Liu’s arrival on the scene is a welcome one for many U.S. skating fans who have been waiting for a young skater who could challenge the bevy of Russian and Japanese prodigies who are pulling off quad jumps and triple axels. While the U.S. doesn’t have an army of quad and triple axel jumpers as those countries do, we at least have Liu.
And now we just have to wait until Liu can compete on the senior circuit.