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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Chicago Marathon features Emily Sisson’s return, Conner Mantz’s debut, live on Peacock

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At Sunday’s Chicago Marathon, Emily Sisson makes her return, nearly three years after Olympic Trials disappointment. Conner Mantz makes one of the most anticipated U.S. men’s debuts in 26.2-mile racing.

It is not the norm, but an American will be one of the spotlight runners in both the men’s and women’s elite races at a major marathon. Peacock airs live coverage at 8 a.m. ET.

Sisson, 30, starts her first mass marathon since dropping out of the Olympic Trials on Feb. 29, 2020, her legs “destroyed” on the hilly Atlanta course where she started as arguably the favorite. She ran the virtual New York City Marathon later in 2020, but that was solo (and not in New York City). Her 2:38:00 isn’t recorded in her official results on her World Athletics bio.

Since, Sisson won the Olympic Trials 10,000m on the track and was the top American in Tokyo in 10th place. She moved back to the roads, winning national titles at 15km and the half marathon and breaking the American record in the latter.

Sisson vaulted into the elite group of U.S. female marathoners in 2019, when she clocked the second-fastest debut marathon in American history, a 2:23:08 on a windy day in London, where the early pace was slow.

At the time, it was the 12th-best U.S. performance all-time. In the last two years, Keira D’Amato, 37, and Sara Hall, 39, combined to run seven faster marathons. At Chicago, a flat course that produced a world record three years ago, Sisson can answer them and perhaps get close to D’Amato’s American record 2:19:12.

“I’m hoping sub-2:20,” coach Ray Treacy said, according to LetsRun.com. “With the [super] shoes and the training behind her, I would think that’s [worth] at least three minutes.”

It is less likely that Sisson can challenge for the win on Sunday given the presence of Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich, the 2019 World champion and defending champion in the Windy City. The 28-year-old mom is the fifth-fastest woman in history with a personal best of 2:17:08. And Ethiopian Ruti Aga, a podium finisher in Berlin, New York City and Tokyo with a best time of 2:18:34, though she has one marathon finish since the pandemic (a seventh place).

Like Sisson, Mantz has shown strong recent road racing form. The American men’s debut marathon record of 2:07:56 (Leonard Korir) is in play. If he can break that, Mantz will be among the five fastest U.S. marathoners in history.

Rarely has a U.S. male distance runner as accomplished as Mantz moved up to the marathon at such a young age (25). At BYU, he won NCAA cross-country titles in 2020 and 2021 and placed fifth in the Olympic Trials 10,000m, then turned pro and won the U.S. Half Marathon Championships last December.

“If everything goes as planned, I think sub-2:08 is realistic,” Mantz said in a Citius Mag video interview last month. “If everything goes perfect on the day, I think a sub-2:07, that’s a big stretch goal.”

The men’s field doesn’t have the singular star power of Chepngetich, but a large group of East Africans with personal bests around 2:05. The most notable: defending champion Seifu Tura of Ethiopia and 2021 Boston Marathon winner Benson Kipruto of Kenya.

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Alpine skiing to test new format for combined race

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Alpine skiing officials will test a new format for the combined event, a race that is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

French newspaper L’Equipe reported that the International Ski Federation (FIS) will test a new team format for the combined, which has been an individual event on the Olympic program since 1988. L’Equipe reported that a nation can use a different skier for the downhill and slalom in the new setup, quoting FIS secretary general Michel Vion.

For example, the U.S. could use Breezy Johnson in the downhill run and sub her out for Mikaela Shiffrin in the slalom run, should the format be adopted into senior competition.

The format will be tested at the world junior championships in January in St. Anton, Austria, according to the report.

In response to the report, a FIS spokesperson said, “Regarding the new format of the combined is correct, and our directors are working on the rules so for the moment the only thing we can confirm is that there will be this new format for the Alpine combined that has been proposed by the athletes’ commission.”

Some version of the combined event has been provisionally included on the 2026 Olympic program, with a final IOC decision on its place coming by April.

This will be the third consecutive World Cup season with no combined events. Instead, FIS has included more parallel races in recent years. The individual combined remains on the biennial world championships program.

L’Equipe also reported that the mixed team parallel event, which is being dropped from the Olympics, will also be dropped from the biennial world championships after this season.

“There is nothing definitive about that yet, but it is a project in the making,” a FIS spokesperson said in commenting on the report.

Vion said the mixed team event, which debuted at the Olympics in 2018, was not a hit at the Beijing Games and did not draw a strong audience, according to L’Equipe.

The World Cup season starts in two weeks with the traditional opening giant slaloms in Soelden, Austria.

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