Alysa Liu
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Alysa Liu, after pulling an all-nighter at nationals, readies for world junior figure skating championships

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Alysa Liu stayed up until 7 a.m. the night after winning her second consecutive U.S. title in January. Not because she was celebrating – the 14-year-old had homework.

She stayed up until 4 a.m. the following night thinking her additional homework would be a breeze, but it was much more challenging than she expected. Unlike winning her second national title, she told media.

“It’s different because it’s my second time around at senior nationals,” Liu told NBCSports.com. “But still just as exciting.”

She finished algebra and biology before the championships, but there was one subject that she put off. For help staying awake through the nights, she chatted on the phone with a friend back home in California.

While in Greensboro, the Junior Grand Prix Final silver medalist spoke with members of the media about looking ahead to the junior world championships.

The event takes place this weekend in Tallinn, Estonia and will stream live on the ISU YouTube page. The women’s short program begins Friday at 3:45 a.m. ET, and the free skate is Saturday.

This conversation has been edited for clarity.

Why did you stay up so late?

Liu: My Chinese homework’s pretty hard. Each lesson consists of two to four essays that I have to write. Took a while. But the last one had two essays and two tests. I had a total of seven essays to write – in Chinese – and then I had to do four quizzes and four tests.

Is that normal for you?

Liu: I don’t think I’ve ever stayed up that … early, I guess. It’s not staying up late. It’s staying up early! I think I only stayed up until 2 a.m. before, on New Year’s.

What’s your favorite class?

Liu: I would say Chinese, but it’s so hard. I’m good at it. I’m OK at it. I used to be fluent in Chinese when I was younger – like really fluent. I keep opening my notebooks from first and second grade. I’m like, how did I get almost all of this? I can understand everything, basically, and speak it. My accent’s not good at all. I can read and write some, still working on that.

Then I stopped for five years. I did seven years of Chinese school, about, and then stopped for five years and I’m doing it again. I’m very slow at writing in Chinese. I’m like, wait, is that stroke supposed to be there? Nope.

So, it’s rusty but it’s coming back.

Liu: Some of my lessons and sessions I have to do, I have to do voice recordings. My teacher’s saying my pronunciation is good, and my dad [who is from China] is like, no, that’s not good at all![laughter]

Looking at junior worlds, you saw a lot of those skaters at the Junior Grand Prix Final. Are you taking any notes from that into this competition and, if so, what?

Liu: Yea, I guess. I really want to just focus on my programs. Try to do better than nationals at junior worlds … I don’t really think about the score, I just want to do a really good program.

Have you started thinking about music for next season? Since you now have kept the same short program for two seasons.

Liu: No, not yet, but I think soon though. … I really enjoy doing this short program. I’m not sick of it. It was actually my idea to keep it.

MORE: Rudy Galindo on second life in skating and working with Alysa Liu

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season 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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FIFA rules on Olympic men’s soccer tournament age eligibility

Gabriel Jesus
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For the first time since 1988, some 24-year-olds will be eligible for the Olympic men’s soccer tournament without using an over-age exception.

FIFA announced Friday that it will use the same age eligibility criteria for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 that it intended to use in 2020 — that players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997 are eligible, plus three over-age exceptions. FIFA chose not to move the birthdate deadline back a year after the Olympics were postponed by one year.

Olympic men’s soccer tournaments have been U-23 events — save those exceptions — since the 1992 Barcelona Games. In 1984 and 1988, restrictions kept European and South American players with World Cup experience ineligible. Before that, professionals weren’t allowed at all.

Fourteen of the 16 men’s soccer teams already qualified for the Games using players from under-23 national teams. The last two spots are to be filled by CONCACAF nations, potentially the U.S. qualifying a men’s team for the first time since 2008.

The U.S.’ biggest star, Christian Pulisic, and French superstar Kylian Mbappe were both born in 1998 and thus would have been under the age limit even if FIFA moved the deadline to Jan. 1, 1998.

Perhaps the most high-profile player affected by FIFA’s decision is Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus. The Manchester City star was born April 3, 1997, and thus would have become an over-age exception if FIFA pushed the birthdate rule back a year.

Instead, Brazil could name him to the Olympic team and still keep all of its over-age exceptions.

However, players need permission from their professional club teams to play in the Olympics, often limiting the availability of stars.

MORE: Noah Lyles details training near woods, dog walkers

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Jenny Thompson’s new team is on the front line fighting coronavirus

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Two weeks ago, Jenny Thompson, the 12-time Olympic swimming medalist turned anesthesiologist, told close friends about the worrisome situation at her hospital in Charleston, S.C.

Thompson and her perioperative team of 40 or 50 were stressed that they would not have the most effective personal protective equipment (PPE) for when the coronavirus pandemic peaks there, projected to be later this month.

The messages caused fellow former Stanford swimmers and Olympic teammates Gabrielle Rose and Lea Maurer to act.

“She almost never asks for any sort of help or support,” Maurer said. “She’s Herculean in her ability to take on life and all its challenges.”

Rose and Maurer started a GoFundMe titled “Go Jenny Go” on March 22 for help to purchase PPE for the hospital. At the time, critical care doctors were “scrambling to piece together purchases on their own in anticipation of their high risk patients,” Maurer wrote.

Thompson said the PPE situation is better now. The GoFundMe was suspended Wednesday. Future support is directed to help those in New York City. Thompson specifically noted a GoFundMe for NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund.

More than $9,000 was raised in less than two weeks. Also, the hospital started receiving more PPE on its own. Thompson’s team now feels prepared for what’s to come.

“People were responding and donating from all chapters of my life,” Thompson said by phone Thursday. “People I didn’t even know. Family from USA Swimming and international swimming. It’s really touched me to know that so many people care and are able to donate, help share the message.”

Thompson woke at 4 a.m. several days this week with thoughts of her peers in New York City. Healthcare workers there have cited a lack of PPE in putting their own lives at risk while they fight to save others. Some have contracted the virus.

“We’ve been fortunate [in South Carolina]. I feel lucky,” Thompson said. “We’ll definitely be in a place where we’re taking care of a lot of Covid patients, but we’re not there yet.

“I’ve heard people say, people in healthcare knew what they were signing up for. I never signed up to get sick and potentially die from this job. I always assumed that I would have the protection or the supplies needed to help me do my job, and that’s been a real struggle nationwide.”

Thompson went to medical school in New York at Columbia University starting in 2001.

“I’d been there maybe a couple weeks at Columbia, when 9/11 happened,” she said. “I remember feeling very helpless as a first-year medical student. I wanted to help so badly, but there really wasn’t much I could do. All my classmates felt the same way. I’ve always had that as part of the making of me as a doctor, having to go through crisis, but I never imagined a pandemic. I guess some people prepare for this sort of thing their whole life, but I didn’t.”

The term “front lines” has been applied to healthcare workers around the globe. Thompson said it’s apt at her hospital.

“We definitely have Covid here, but we have not had a major outbreak like some other cities,” she said. “We consider every patient who we give general anesthesia and intubate to be a potential risk. As anesthesia providers and people who intubate the airway, we are on the front line. We are at a much higher risk of getting sick without the right PPE.”

Thompson’s team feels more ready for the peak with every passing day. They’re simulating, donning and doffing and scheduling to work longer shifts starting next week. The preparation extends home, where she has a husband and three children.

“I have, like, four different pairs of shoes,” Thompson said. “I spray my socks with fabric disinfectant. I take them off in the car, and then I put on flip-flops. Then when I get home, I shower and put my clothes in the wash immediately. It’s a strange place to be, but just consider everything I touch to be contaminated in an effort to protect myself.”

Both Rose and Maurer still see in Thompson that swimmer who awed them in college. As Thompson trained to become the most decorated female U.S. Olympian in history, she studied at Stanford and then Columbia to become a doctor.

“I knew I wanted to take care of critically ill patients,” she said.

As a swimmer, Thompson was known as the ultimate teammate. Eight Olympic gold medals in relays, often an anchor. Always there. Dependable.

“She knows that she’s going to make a difference,” Maurer said. “She knows that she’s going to achieve that goal. She knows that she’s going to help to make people better. And so she does it.”

Thompson believes the next few weeks will be unlike anything she’s ever faced.

“Everybody was sort of freaking out in the beginning and feeling very stressed, and I think that at some level has not gone away,” she said. “That’s going to stay with us, but we have a we-can-do-this-together fighting mentality that we are leaning on each other for. It’s really no different than being a part of any kind of team.”