AP

Alysa Liu makes history but wants to make more

Leave a comment

DETROIT — Twenty-five seconds into her short program Thursday, Alysa Liu made history.

She was the first woman to land a triple Axel in the short program at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Not bad for a 13-year-old making her senior debut at nationals.

And not enough for Liu. She wants to make more.

“She definitely wants to be the youngest champion,” said her coach, Laura Lipetsky. “That’s in the back of her head.”

It won’t be easy. Liu, second after the short program, likely will need another historic performance to overcome reigning champion Bradie Tennell, who takes a 2.71-point lead into Friday’s free skate.

But one would not be wise to discount the possibility of Liu pulling it off.

After all, this is a young woman who replied to a question of whether she was confident about landing her triple Axel with a matter-of-fact, “Yeah.”

She was the third woman in U.S. history to hit one cleanly at nationals, following Tonya Harding (1991) and Kimmie Meissner (2005.)

In Friday’s free skate, Liu will try to become the first to land two in a program.

No wonder she is being talked about as the future of women’s skating in the United States, no matter that Liu will be too young to compete in senior international events for two seasons after this.

“I’ve only heard a few people say that, so I don’t think about it,” she said. “I don’t feel too much pressure.”

She seemed utterly nonplussed about moving into the big time, smiling broadly as she glided across the rink before the short program.  Liu nearly managed to pull off a flawless program, with an under-rotation on the second jump of the triple-triple combination the only error.

“I was a little bit nervous,” she admitted.

The magnitude of the moment finally hit the 4-foot, 7-inch Liu when it was over.

With the crowd standing to applaud her, Liu burst into tears. She broke down again 20 minutes later while describing the moment to the media.

“I was really happy because I did everything I wanted to,” Liu said.

And that gave her a chance to replace 1998 Olympic champion Tara Lipinski as the youngest woman to win nationals. Lipinski was 14 when she became U.S. champion in 1997.

Liu, a ninth grader from Richmond, Calif., has not let her youth deter her ambition to do such things.

“I hope to win, obviously,” Liu told me in December. “I’d never go into a competition hoping I medal. I always strive for first, even if it’s not possible.”

Lipetsky, who has coached Liu since she began skating at age 5, tries to temper but not dismiss Liu’s hopes for glory.

“We’ve told her she can’t control the results, she can only control doing her job,” Lipetsky said. “Wherever the scoring falls, it falls. We just want her to do two great programs and enjoy the experience.”

The first part of the experience made Liu cry.

And she couldn’t have been happier.

MORE: Alysa Liu with a “real chance” to win gold

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.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Hayley Wickenheiser is 7th woman elected to Hockey Hall of Fame

Hayley Wickenheiser
AP
Leave a comment

Hayley Wickenheiser, arguably the greatest female hockey player of all time who retired in 2017, will be the seventh female player in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The six-time Canadian Olympian (once in softball) was elected in her first year of eligibility. Wickenheiser is joined by Sergei Zubov, who earned gold at the 1992 Albertville Games with the Unified Team, two-time Czech Olympic medalist Václav Nedomanský and 1980s and ’90s NHLer Guy Carbonneau, among others.

The induction ceremony is Nov. 18 in Toronto.

Wickenheiser is the fifth Canadian female player elected after Angela James (2010), Geraldine Heaney (2013), Danielle Goyette (2017) and Jayna Hefford (2018). Americans Cammi Granato (2010) and Angela Ruggiero (2015) are also Hall of Famers.

Wickenheiser, now the Toronto Maple Leafs’ assistant director of player development, earned four golds and one silver in the first five Olympic women’s hockey tournaments. She played 23 years for the Canadian national team, earning seven world titles and being named Olympic tournament MVP in 2002 and 2006.

She also carried the Canadian flag at the Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremony and recited the Athletes’ Oath at the Vancouver 2010 Opening Ceremony. She was elected to the International Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission in 2014.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Finland hockey Hall of Famer retires at age 46

Breaking provisionally added for 2024 Olympics

AP
Leave a comment

Breaking (don’t call it break dancing) was provisionally added to the Olympics for the 2024 Paris Games.

The IOC also announced Tuesday that skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing were provisionally added to the 2024 Olympic program. Those three sports will debut at Tokyo 2020 but were not assured places on the Olympic program beyond next year.

“They contribute to making the program more gender balanced and more urban, and offer the opportunity to connect with the younger generation,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in a press release. “The proposed sports are in line with these principles and enhance Paris 2024’s overall dynamic Games concept, which focuses on inclusivity, inspiring a new audience and hosting socially responsible Games.”

The IOC Executive Board will make the final decision on the Paris 2024 event program in December 2020, but no more sports can be proposed for inclusion. That means baseball and softball, which return to the Olympics next year, will not be on the 2024 Olympic program. Those sports can still be added for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

Breaking debuted at the Youth Olympics last year, where the U.S. did not have any athletes. Sergei “Bumblebee” Chernyshev of Russia and Ramu Kawai of Japan took gold medals.

Breaking had never previously been up for a vote for Olympic inclusion, but the World DanceSport Federation is recognized by the IOC.

Teenagers, some of whom went by nicknames like Bad Matty, Senorita Carlota and KennyG, went head-to-head in dance battles at the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires last year. They performed on a mat atop an outdoor basketball court to a musical beat and emcees.

Judges determined winners using six criteria: creativity, personality, technique, variety, perfomativity and musicality.

“Breaking (also called b-boying or b-girling) is an urban dance style,” according to the Youth Olympics. “The urban dance style originated during the mid 1970s in the Bronx borough of New York City.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Beach volleyball worlds TV schedule