Alysa Liu, the youngest figure skater in US history to land a triple axel in international competition, has been hailed as the “Simone Biles of figure skating“. Well, no pressure.
“I had never heard of this before,” Liu, 16, told TODAY Parents after learning she was being compared to the greatest gymnast of all time. “It’s the first time. It’s like a very big honor because I really like Simone Biles!”
Adam Rippon, the 2018 Olympic figure skating medalist, drew the comparison between Biles and Liu, and it’s easy to see why. Liu started skating at age 5 and at 13 became the youngest woman to win a United States Championship title. She would also win the championship the following year, becoming the youngest skater to win consecutive US titles.
Additionally, she became the first American woman to land three triple axels in a single competition, the first American woman to land a quadruple lutz in a competition, and the first woman in the world to land a quad and a triple axel in the same program. . to a competition.
Liu is well aware of the pressure on athletes as she heads into the games, not to mention the added pressure of being compared to an athlete like Biles – who had to retire from Olympic team competition the last summer to protect his sanity. Liu said she was careful about her mental health.
“I have a mental coach and I also have a therapist. So we just talk about what I’m going through and how I can improve,” she explains. “I think it’s really important to have someone you can rely on to talk things over it’s honestly really helpful and mental health is really important especially for athletes because we’re under a lot of pressure – and a lot of other people have such high expectations of us – and that tires us out sometimes, I guess – so having someone to talk to is very important.
I focused more on myself rather than meeting other people’s expectations.”
And while a gold medal at 16 at the Olympics – if it’s gold, it will be the first time an American has won gold in figure skating since 2002 – would certainly inspire young figure skaters. around the world, Liu is not focused on what young people can learn from her. Instead, she just focuses on fun.
“I focused more on myself than on the expectations of others,” she explains. “And whatever I do, I hope it inspires some people. If it doesn’t, that’s fine too, but if it does, that’s really cool.
Liu is also no stranger to setbacks. After winning back-to-back championships, she placed fourth at the 2021 championships after dealing with injuries, a growth spurt and a coaching change. This year, Liu had to withdraw from the US Figure Skating Championships after testing positive for COVID-19.
Liu says she feels much better now, having recovered from her COVID diagnosis, and says she’s just picked up where she left off.
“Yeah, honestly, I didn’t really feel any different,” she says. “So training went normally and smoothly.”
I will not be disappointed at all. No matter what happens.”
Currently, millions of people are stranded in Beijing as the country faces multiple variants of the virus and an increase in confirmed cases. On Wednesday, NBC Sports announced it would not be sending any commentators to the Winter Games, highlighting COVID concerns.
Athletes will also be subject to strict COVID-19 safety protocols to compete – they must all be fully vaccinated or spend 21 days in quarantine, undergo daily COVID-19 tests, mask mandates and must remain in their “bubbles”. for their entire stay.
But even if the Winter Games will certainly be different from those of past years, this does not affect Liu’s morale.
“I’ve never been to an Olympics before. I don’t know what it’s going to be like. So while things are probably going to be different this time, I won’t have, like, a high expectation,” he said. she declared. said. “Luckily, I won’t be disappointed at all. No matter what. And my friends are always there to support me. We’re always on FaceTime.”
For Liu, the fun at the Olympics will be listening to his favorite artists these days (ITZY and Doja Cat), meeting new athletes and making new friends. She says a few Team USA Olympians bring board and card games to pass the time while they’re in their respective bubbles, so she’s ready to “compete” off the ice as well.
She is also excited to return to China. His father, Junguo (Arthur) Liu, was forced to flee his country after participating in pro-democracy protests in his twenties. After learning he was one of the government’s “most wanted students”, friends helped smuggle him out of the country by boat. At the age of 25, he finally found his way to Oakland, California.
In 2017, Liu visited her father’s family in China. Her father is her only biological parent – Liu, along with her four siblings, were all conceived by anonymous egg donors and surrogate mothers.
“Obviously, we still love China, even after my father left because of the government. It’s still his homeland, and he’s very happy that I can go back to China,” she said. “Just going back to China will do me good.”
Liu and her father are very close and she has got into the habit, in a way, of giving her father the medals she wins.
“The medal is not really the most important thing for me,” she explains. “It’s normally about the trip and all the experiences and things I’ve learned. Materialistic things, like the medal, are not important to me. But it’s important to me when I give it to my father because she has meaning.”
When asked if she will give her father a medal if she wins a bronze, silver or gold medal at the Olympics, she laughs, then replies:
“If I won a medal, I would probably give it to him.”