‘A Love of the Sport:’ Pushing Herself to Greatness, Liu Sets Lofty Goals for Next Season

By Kama Stigall

Photo by Jay Adeff/U.S. Figure Skating

Photo by Jay Adeff/U.S. Figure Skating

When Alysa Liu won the junior ladies crown at the 2018 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, it served as a hometown coronation for the Bay Area skater. The audience was not only in awe of her ability to land seven triple jumps, but also her maturity on the ice. She truly has it all — showmanship, grace and grit — and she’s only 12 years old.

Liu began skating like many others, in a learn-to-skate group class. At the Oakland Ice Arena, the instructor, Laura Lipetsky, immediately noticed the 5-year-old skater’s tenacity and drive.

“She enjoyed skating and did not want to get off the ice,” Lipetsky said. “I remember her making a comment to me at the end of my class, asking why the class was over so quick. From then on, I knew we had a similar connection, a love for the sport.”

Group classes quickly turned into private lessons with Lipetsky. Liu’s pursuit of perfection, coupled with her family’s commitment to helping her to achieve her skating goals, enabled her to be successful at a relatively young age. By the age of 10, Liu won the U.S. intermediate title.

A group of tough competitors wasn’t the only hurdle Liu would have to overcome at the 2018 U.S. Championships. Right before the free skate, she came down with a 100-degree fever.

“I could not get out of bed most of the day on Jan. 2,” explained Liu.  “I barely ate anything that day, and I had to get out of bed around 4:30 p.m. to go to the competition, which was going to start around 7 p.m.  I was so weak and sick. I had to overcome that to do my free skate, to land all seven triple jumps in the second half of my program.  I was determined to do it no matter what.”

Channeling the characters of her music from Les Misérables, she stormed onto the ice at the SAP Center in San Jose, ready for battle. Not only did she land all of her triple jumps, she performed with a poise and musicality that’s rare for skaters her age.

Photo by Jay Adeff/U.S. Figure Skating

Photo by Jay Adeff/U.S. Figure Skating

“Her win was a validation of my hard work and her hard work,” her father, Arthur Liu, said.

Liu’s work ethic is inspired by some of the world’s top skaters, particularly 2018 Olympic silver medalist Evgenia Medvedeva and Japanese skater Rika Kihira, who is the first female skater in the world to land a triple Axel–triple jump combination at an ISU competition.

“They are good jumpers and spinners, and they work hard,” Alysa Liu said. “They are also consistent in their programs during competition.”

Though she seems well on her way to future successes in skating, Liu isn’t leaving anything to chance. She knows she must keep improving and pushing her own limits. Her ambition is nothing short of impressive.

“The goals for the next season are to move up to senior ladies, get the triple Axel clean and consistent, and also work on a few quad jumps,” Liu said. “Certainly, another goal is to improve my skating skills, edges and interpretation of the programs, and basically improve my component score.”

Skating has taught her more than just how to land difficult jumps and performance skills — it’s about the life lessons that will carry her forward once she decides to hang up her skates.

“It gives me challenges and an opportunity to learn new skills, and really test my endurance and build up my strong will,” Liu said. “All those things translate to my other endeavors in my life like academics. It teaches me not to give up and just keep trying and not to be afraid of failure.”

Arthur Liu agreed. “Skating has taught her perseverance, a strong will and passion to pursue what she loves to do,” he said.

Read the full story on 2018 U.S. junior champion Alysa Liu in the June/July issue of SKATING magazine.