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Alysa Liu is the youngest U.S. ladies’ champion ever, defeats Bradie Tennell

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DETROIT – She began by landing the first of her two planned triple Axels to open a combination, followed by a double toe loop.

And then what did Alysa Liu think?

“I still have the second one,” she said.

And she landed the next, so then what did she think?

“I still have every single other jump in the program,” Liu said.

The thought process of not getting ahead of herself was, of course, critical to what Liu did in Friday night’s free skate at the U.S. Championships.

And it has allowed Liu to get ahead of all the expected timelines in U.S. women’s skating.

In her debut at senior nationals, the 13-year-old Liu became the youngest women’s U.S. champion in history.

She also became the first to land two triple Axels in a single program at nationals.

Thursday, she had become the first to land a triple Axel in the short program.

Those signature jumps – and two performances with just one minor error, an under-rotated jump in the short – gave Liu 217.51 points, nearly 4 more than reigning champion Bradie Tennell (213.59), who had won the short program but had a fall and another jump error in the free skate. Mariah Bell, who also fell once, was third at 212.40.

Tennell and Bell almost certainly will get the two women’s places on the U.S. team for the world championships. Liu is too young for even junior worlds this season and can’t compete at senior worlds until 2022.

“I’m not too worried about that,” Liu said. “It gives me more time to work on my spins and skating skills and jumps.”

Results: Ladies’ final

In the free skate, Liu hit eight triple jumps, including two triple-triple combinations.  The only hint of any flaw was a warning for an unclear edge on the takeoff of her triple flip.

“I just wanted to beat my best score and do a clean program, and I did,” Liu said.

Hanna Harrell, 15, was a surprising fourth. Ting Cui, 16, rallied from a disastrous short program to take third in the free skate and fifth overall. Harrell and Cui likely are headed to junior worlds.

MORE: U.S. Championships men’s preview: Nathan Chen’s imminent three-peat

As a reminder, you can watch the U.S. Championships live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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Asbel Kiprop, Olympic 1500m champ, banned four years

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Kenyan Asbel Kiprop, the 2008 Olympic 1500m champion and a three-time world champ, was banned four years after testing positive for EPO in November 2017, according to track and field’s doping watchdog organization.

The ban is backdated to Feb. 3, 2018, when the 29-year-old was provisionally suspended after the failed test.

Kiprop repeatedly denied doping since last May, when he first acknowledged the positive test. Most recently, a 3,000-word defense from his lawyer was posted on Kiprop’s Facebook page.

Kiprop’s defenses included saying he was a victim of extortion and that he was offered “a reward” of becoming an anti-doping ambassador if he admitted guilt. The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), the IAAF’s independent organization to monitor doping and corruption, denied the latter last May.

A disciplinary panel dismissed six defenses from exonerating him, including the possibility his sample was spiked, in handing out the four-year ban.

Kiprop, the pre-eminent 1500m runner of the last decade, can appeal the ban.

At 19, he finished second in the Beijing Olympic 1500m but was upgraded to gold a year later after Bahrain’s Rashid Ramzi failed a drug test. He is the youngest Olympic 1500m medalist of all time, according to the OlyMADMen.

Kiprop went on to earn three straight world titles in the 1500m in 2011, 2013 and 2015, matching the feats of retired legends Noureddine Morceli and Hicham El Guerrouj.

He struggled in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, finishing last in the London final with a hamstring injury and sixth in the Rio final won by American rival Matthew Centrowitz.

Kiprop has targeted El Guerrouj’s world record of 3:26:00, missing the mark by .69 of a second in 2015.

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Maggie Nichols is second woman in 20 years to repeat as NCAA all-around champ

Maggie Nichols
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Oklahoma junior and world champion gymnast Maggie Nichols became the first woman to repeat as NCAA all-around champion in 12 years, returning from a heel injury to compete on all four events for the first time since January on Friday.

Nichols, a Rio Olympic hopeful before being beset by a torn meniscus in 2016, joined 2004 Olympic silver medalist Courtney Kupets as the only women to win back-to-back NCAA all-arounds in the 2000s.

A junior, Nichols can next year join Jenny Hansen as the only women to three-peat in NCAA history.

Oklahoma goes for a third team title in four years on Saturday night against UCLA (featuring Olympic champions Madison Kocian and Kyla Ross), LSU and Denver.

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NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships Individual Results
All-Around
1. Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma) — 39.7125
2. Lexy Ramler (Minnesota) — 39.6625
2. Kyla Ross (UCLA) — 39.6625
4. Sarah Finnegan (LSU) — 39.65
5. Kennedi Edney (LSU) — 39.6

Vault
1. Kennedi Edney (LSU) — 9.95
1. Derrian Gobourne (Auburn)
1. Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma)
1. Kyla Ross (UCLA)

Uneven Bars
1. Sarah Finnegan (LSU) — 9.95

Balance Beam
1. Natalie Wojcik (Michigan) — 9.95

Floor Exercise
1. Alicia Boren (Florida) — 9.95
1. Lynnzee Brown (Denver)
1. Brenna Dowell (Oklahoma)
1. Kyla Ross (UCLA)