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

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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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World Alpine Skiing Championships on for 2021 after request to delay rejected

Alpine Skiing World Championships
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GENEVA (AP) — A request by the organizers of next year’s skiing world championships in Italy to postpone the event by one year was rejected Thursday by the International Ski Federation.

FIS ruled that the event will go ahead from Feb. 9-21, 2021, in Cortina d’Ampezzo — the highlight of an Alpine season that faces challenges to find safe protocols for international travel and attending races in Europe, North America and China.

The Veneto region of northern Italy was hit hard by the coronavirus and the season-ending World Cup races in Cortina in mid-March were canceled. That week-long event was to be a test for the 2021 worlds.

“The last month of efforts to come to this solution demonstrates the strong collaborative spirit of the ski family and stakeholders.” FIS president Gian-Franco Kasper said.

Organizers in Italy have said they expect losses of about 30 million euros ($34 million) if the worlds are also canceled. They asked for a postponement to March 2022, which would be only weeks after the Beijing Olympics.

“But we will be ready in any case and we will show that these world championships can change the history of a region despite the current difficulties,” Alessandro Benetton, president of the Cortina organizing committee, said in a statement.

Italian racer Sofia Goggia, the 2018 Olympic downhill champion, said she was “happy for Cortina because it will host the first major international event after the coronavirus epidemic.”

Cortina, which hosted the 1956 Olympics, will co-host the 2026 Winter Games with Milan and use the worlds as a showcase for the resort.

The women’s World Cup downhill on the Olympia delle Tofane course each January is one of the most scenic in the sport with a signature jump between tall outcrops of jagged rock.

The Dolomites venue was awarded the 2021 worlds by FIS after missing out as a candidate four straight times from 2013-19.

MORE: Anna Veith retires, leaves Austrian Alpine skiing in unfamiliar territory

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Russia track and field athlete clearance frozen due to unpaid fine

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MONACO (AP) — The program allowing Russian track athletes to compete internationally will be frozen because the country’s federation failed to pay a fine on time, World Athletics said Thursday.

The Russian track federation, known as RusAF, owes a $5 million fine and another $1.31 million in costs for various doping-related work and legal wrangles. World Athletics said RusAF missed Wednesday’s deadline to pay.

World Athletics said it would freeze the work of the Doping Review Board, which vets Russian athletes who want the “authorized neutral athlete” status that allows them to compete internationally, and its taskforce monitoring RusAF’s anti-doping reforms.

World Athletics said both bodies will be “put on hold” until its council meets to discuss the situation at the end of July.

“RusAF is letting its athletes down badly,” World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said in a statement. “We have done as much as we can to expedite our ANA process and support RusAF with its reinstatement plan, but seemingly to no avail.”

RusAF president Yevgeny Yurchenko earlier told the Tass state news agency that his federation’s finances were damaged by the coronavirus pandemic and that it had asked for more time to pay.

World Athletics’ statement didn’t directly address that issue, but said Russia hadn’t indicated when it would pay.

Russia was fined $10 million by World Athletics in March, with $5 million suspended for two years, after the federation admitted to breaking anti-doping rules and obstructing an investigation.

The Athletics Integrity Unit said fake documents were used under the previous management to give an athlete an alibi for missing a doping test.

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