Alysa Liu, U.S. figure skating champion, changes coaches

Alysa Liu
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Two-time reigning U.S. figure skating champion Alysa Liu has left her longtime coach, Laura Lipetsky, to work with a team including coaches in California and Canada.

Liu, 14, of Richmond, Calif. had been coached by Lipetsky since she began skating at age 5.

Liu is now to train with three-time Italian Olympic ice dancer Massimo Scali, who is based in Oakland, and with Lori Nichol and Lee Barkell, who are based at the Granite Club in Toronto.

“I have really enjoyed working with Alysa for her entire skating career,” Lipetsky said in a text message. “Massimo Scali and her father informed me that I would no longer be working with her. To not add to her distraction and allow her the opportunity to focus on being the best she can be, I prefer not to comment any further.”

A U.S. Figure Skating release about Liu’s coaching change did not provide details of the logistics involved in the two-country arrangement, complicated now by Covid-19 restrictions on entry to Canada.

Liu’s father, Arthur, said in a text message, “We are staying in the Bay Area.”

Team Liu will apparently rely on Zoom and occasional visits for the work with the Toronto coaches. They have been doing Zoom sessions in recent weeks. 

“I look forward to working with all my coaches even though some of them are located in different parts of the world,” the skater said via USFS.

Barkell did not immediately answer messages seeking comment.

Liu has already worked on choreography with Nichol, one of the sport’s leading choreographers for 25 years, and on skating skills with Scali.

Neither Liu nor her father gave any reasons for what seemed an unexpected change, given the skater’s success the past two seasons.

In 2019, at 13, Liu stunned the skating world by becoming the youngest senior national champion ever. In 2020, she became the youngest ever to win two senior U.S. titles.

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Last season, she also won a bronze medal at the World Junior Championships and a silver medal at the Junior Grand Prix Final. At her first Junior Grand Prix competition last August in Lake Placid, N.Y., Liu became the first U.S. woman to land a quadruple jump in competition.

Liu, an 11th grader who turns 15 on August 8, is not eligible for senior international competition until the 2021-22 season.

Liu was Lipetsky’s first student to qualify for nationals. It was not surprising that some in the skating community had questioned the idea of Liu staying with such a little-known coach.

In a 2018 interview for an NBCSports.com/figure-skating story, Lipetsky admitted she had heard the questions but was not concerned.

“Alysa is a very smart girl, and she knows what works for her,” Lipetsky told me then. “She understands me very well, and she and her dad have trust in me. I know when to give her easy days and when to push her. It has been proven in the results.”

In the USFS release, Liu acknowledged and thanked Lipetsky for the coach’s role in the skater’s success.

“We’ve worked so closely together, and she has helped me get to where I am today,” Liu said.

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 11 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com/figure-skating.

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