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

Alysa Liu
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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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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”

Ilia Malinin wins U.S. Figure Skating Championships despite quadruple Axel miss

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One year ago, Ilia Malinin came to the U.S. Championships as, largely, a 17-year-old unknown. He finished second to Nathan Chen in 2022 and was left off the three-man Olympic team due to his inexperience, a committee decision that lit a fire in him.

After the biggest year of change in U.S. figure skating in three decades, Malinin came to this week’s nationals in San Jose, California, as the headliner across all disciplines.

Though he fell on his quadruple Axel and doubled two other planned quads in Sunday’s free skate (the most ambitious program in history), he succeeded the absent Chen as national champion.

Malinin, the world’s second-ranked male singles skater, still landed two clean quads in Friday’s short program and three more Sunday. He totaled 287.74 points and prevailed by 10.43 over two-time Olympian Jason Brown, a bridge between the Chen and Malinin eras.

“This wasn’t the skate that I wanted,” said Malinin, who was bidding to become the second man to land six quads in one program after Chen. The Virginia chalked up the flaws at least partially to putting more recent practice time into his short program, which he skated clean on Friday after errors in previous competitions.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results

Brown, a 28-year-old competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Olympics, became the oldest male singles skater to finish in the top three at nationals since Jeremy Abbott won the last of his four titles in 2014. As usual, he didn’t attempt a quad but had the highest artistic score by 9.41 points.

Brown’s seven total top-three finishes at nationals tie him with Chen, Michael WeissBrian Boitano, David Jenkins and Dick Button for the second-most in men’s singles since World War II, trailing only Todd Eldredge‘s and Hayes Jenkins‘ eight.

“I’m not saying it’s super old, but I can’t train the way I used to,” Brown said after Friday’s short program. “What Ilia is doing and the way he is pushing the sport is outstanding and incredible to watch. I cannot keep up.”

Andrew Torgashev took bronze, winning the free skate with one quad and all clean jumps. Torgashev, who competed at nationals for the first time since placing fifth in 2020 at age 18, will likely round out the three-man world team.

Japan’s Shoma Uno will likely be the favorite at worlds. He won last year’s world title, when Malinin admittedly cracked under pressure in the free skate after a fourth-place short program and ended up ninth.

That was before Malinin became the first person to land a quad Axel in competition. That was before Malinin became the story of the figure skating world this fall. That was before Malinin took over the American throne from Chen, who is studying at Yale and not expected to return to competition.

Malinin’s next step is to grab another label that Chen long held: best in the world. To do that, he must be better than he was on Sunday.

“You always learn from your experiences, and there’s always still the rest of the season to come,” he said. “I just have to be prepared and prepare a little bit extra so that doesn’t happen again.”

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