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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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Tommy Ford ends U.S. men’s World Cup drought at Beaver Creek

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Tommy Ford earned his first World Cup win at age 30 and ended the U.S. men’s longest victory and podium droughts in two decades.

Ford won the giant slalom in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, the last North American race on tour this season. He prevailed by eight tenths of a second combining times over two runs.

Norwegians Henrik Kristoffersen and Leif Kristian Nestvold-Haugen were second and third. American Ted Ligety, fourth after the opening run, finished 11th.

Full results are here.

Ford became the first U.S. man to win a World Cup since Travis Ganong took a downhill on Jan. 27, 2017. He also became the first U.S. male podium finisher since Ligety in January 2018. Both were the longest droughts for the program since the late 1990s.

Ford, a 2010 and 2018 Olympian who missed the 2014 Olympics due to a broken femur, had been working toward this moment.

He finished a World Cup career-high fourth at the season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, on Oct. 27. Last season, he had a pair of fifths.

The men’s World Cup moves to Val d’Isere, France, next weekend for a giant slalom and slalom.

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MORE: 2019-20 Alpine skiing TV, live stream schedule

Katie Ledecky wins race by 30 seconds, takes back No. 1 ranking

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In her last race of the year, Katie Ledecky ensured she would finish 2019 as the world’s fastest 1500m freestyler.

Ledecky clocked 15:35.98 at the U.S. Open in Atlanta, winning the longest event on the Olympic pool program by 29.97 seconds. Typical for Ledecky, who owns the nine fastest times in history. This one came in at No. 8. Full meet results are here.

Ledecky scratched the 1500m free final at the summer world championships due to illness. Italian Simona Quadarella went on to win that title in 15:40.89, which was the world’s fastest time this year until Saturday night.

“I didn’t have time on my mind at all today. I just wanted to have a consistent swim,” Ledecky, undefeated in 1500m free finals for nine years, said on NBCSN. “That’s probably the best mile that I’ve had in a while.”

The women’s 1500m freestyle debuts at the Olympics in Tokyo. Ledecky is expected to add that to her Rio Olympic individual lineup of 200m, 400m and 800m frees, assuming she is top two in each event at the June Olympic trials.

In other events Saturday, Erika Brown handed Simone Manuel a rare defeat in the 100m freestyle. Brown, a University of Tennessee senior, clocked 53.42 and lowered her personal best by .71 between prelims and the final. Brown moved from sixth to fourth in the U.S. rankings this year, upping her stock as a contender to make the Olympic 4x100m free relay pool via a top-six finish at trials.

Brown previously lowered her personal best in the 50m free on Thursday. She ranks third in the U.S. this year in that event.

Emily Escobedo dealt Lilly King a rare domestic defeat in the 200m breaststroke. Escobedo lowered her personal best by .87 and clocked 2:22.00, moving to seventh fastest in the world this year and remaining fourth among Americans.

In the men’s 200m breast, Olympic champion Dmitriy Balandin of Kazakhstan was beaten by Cody Miller, the Olympic 100m breast silver medalist. Both were slower than their best times this year.

The next significant swim meet is a Tyr Pro Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., from Jan. 16-19.

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