Alysa Liu reacts after the women’s free skating during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics on February 17, 2022 in Beijing.
Since arriving in Montpellier, France, for the 2022 World Figure Skating Championships, Alysa Liu didn’t think she could skate as well as she did last month at the Olympics, where she placed seventh.
She was tired, mentally and physically. It had been a long season, with a coaching change, a move from the Bay Area to Colorado Springs, Colorado, a fight against COVID at the U.S. Championships and more in between. It didn’t seem possible to regain the joy and energy of his skates in Beijing.
Then she took to the ice for her free skate Friday at her first senior world championships.
“I didn’t think I could do better than the Olympics,” Liu said. “It’s going to be difficult to do it at the world championships so soon after. It’s crazy. I am so happy. …I still can’t believe it. What just happened?”
What happened was a clean, mature program filled with technical content – including a triple axel and two triple-triple combinations – executed with speed and confidence.
With it, the 16-year-old from Richmond, Calif., scored 139.28 points to climb from fifth place after Wednesday’s short program and win the bronze medal with a total of 211.19 points. It is the first world medal for an American since Ashley Wagner’s silver in 2016.
Olympic bronze medalist Kaori Sakamoto of Japan won the gold with 236.09 points. Belgium’s Leona Hendrickx took silver at 217.70, her country’s first world championship medal in a singles event.
“I took a week off after the Olympics, so I trained immediately afterwards,” Liu said. “I tried very hard for the little time I had, and it really paid off.”
Liu’s program, set to Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D, had minor flaws. His triple axel and the second jump of his triple lutz-triple toe loop combination were ruled undershot. But, like the Olympics, she skated freely, with good ice coverage and flow, and her pirouettes and steps were superior.
“I took (training) breaks at the triple axes and then started again,” Liu said of the 3½-turn jump, which she landed as a teenager to win two US titles (2019 , 2020). “This season too. It was really difficult. I was really happy to have been able to succeed (the) Olympics and the world championships with my training.
The last two seasons have been tough. After training for nine years under Laura Lipetsky, Liu changed coaches in June 2020 to work with Massimo Scali and Jeremy Abbott in Oakland, California. In November, just six weeks before the US Championships, she moved to Colorado Springs to train with Viktor Pfeifer and Drew Meekins.
“I lost a lot of my motivation,” Liu said. “After COVID (hit), not everyone could skate much and neither could I. … I was barely going to the rink, I wasn’t doing off-ice training.”
She added: “I grew a lot and hurt a lot. I had an intermittent hip injury, it really slowed me down. I don’t know how I got (my) motivation back. I don’t know how I got here, I really have no idea.
A positive COVID test forced her to withdraw after the U.S. Championships short program, but she applied to join the Olympic team. After returning from the Games, she resumed training in Oakland under childhood coach Phillip DiGuglielmo.
“Hanging out (with friends and family) is really fun, I’m glad I got to do that between (the) Olympics and now,” Liu said. “And Phillip is really funny. It’s really light on (the) workout. And I train with Brian (Boitano), Polina (Edmunds) and Jeremy (Abbott) … and I have a cat at home, so it’s like emotional support.