Alysa Liu, the 14-year-old U.S. senior champion, landed a triple Axel in combination en route to the top short program score in the biggest international event of her young career, the Junior Grand Prix Final, on Thursday.
Liu, who in January became the youngest U.S. champion in history, hit a triple Axel-triple toe loop combo, a double Axel and a triple loop to tally 71.19 points, a personal best. She skated to Barbra Streisand‘s “Don’t Rain on My Parade” in Turin, Italy.
Liu leads by 1.04 points over Russian Daria Usacheva going into Friday’s free skate, streaming live on the Junior Grand Prix YouTube channel.
“I don’t really get nervous, and I don’t feel barely any pressure,” Liu said, according to the International Skating Union, adding that she plans two quadruple Lutzes and two triple Axels in the free. “I just tell myself it’s just another competition.”
Russians rank Nos. 2-5 at the six-skater event, looking to make it 10 straight Junior Grand Prix Final women’s titles for the nation. The top five are separated by just 3.12 points, but Liu was the only one with a triple Axel.
She looks likely to become the first U.S. woman to make a Junior Grand Prix Final podium since Hannah Miller in 2012 (silver). Perhaps the first to win since Becky Bereswill in 2008.
Liu has followed last January’s national title in her senior championships debut with an impressive first junior international campaign.
In recent competitions, she became the first U.S. woman to land any quadruple jump (a Lutz) and the first woman from any nation to couple a triple Axel with a quad.
Though Liu won both of her Junior Grand Prix Series starts, she came into the Final ranked third in the world by best total scores among juniors. She bettered Nos. 1 and 2 (Russians Kamila Valieva and Kseniya Sinitsyna) in Thursday’s short, where rules disallow quads unlike the free.
Past Junior Grand Prix Final champions include Olympic gold medalists Adelina Sotnikova, Yuliya Lipnitskaya and Alina Zagitova. Plus, the top two senior women this season, Alexandra Trusova and Alena Kostornaia, the last two years.
Liu will become old enough for senior international events in the 2022 Olympic season.
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