Alysa Liu first etched her name in the figure skating history books as a senior when she won the 2019 U.S. Championships title – the youngest woman to do so at 13 years old – but it would be another 32 months before she could compete abroad at that level.
That time has finally arrived as the now-16-year-old Liu will compete Friday and Saturday at Lombardia Trophy, the first ISU Challenger Series event of the 2021-22 season, in Bergamo, Italy.
Liu’s senior international debut came at last month’s inaugural Cranberry Cup International, held at the Skating Club of Boston. She won on Aug. 14 with a total of 205.74. points, ahead of Korean Young You (182.88) and 2020 U.S. silver medalist Mariah Bell (179.42).
Liu won both the 2019 and 2020 U.S. titles before placing fourth last season when she was plagued by an ankle injury and working to relearn many of her signature jumps in the aftermath of a growth spurt. She was second at the Junior Grand Prix Final and third at World Junior Championships in the 2019-20 season.
Audrey Shin will join Liu in Italy, also making her Challenger Series debut. Shin impressed by taking the bronze at last season’s mostly domestic Skate America (due to the pandemic). She was fourth at Cranberry Cup with a 174.73-point total.
Tomoki Hiwatashi and Yaroslav Paniot are representing the U.S. in the men’s event at Lombardia. Hiwatashi is the 2019 World Junior champion and Paniot the surprise 2021 U.S. Championships fourth-place finisher who competed at the 2018 Olympics for Ukraine. Paniot was fourth in Boston last month and Hiwatashi seventh.
Their stiffest competition includes Italy’s Daniel Grassl, a three-time national champion and 2020 Europeans fourth-place finisher, and Romain Ponsart, a six-time French nationals medalist and Bell’s fiancé.
American ice dance teams Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenkov and Molly Cesanek and Yehor Yehorov round out the U.S. contingent. This is Carreira and Ponomarenkov’s first competition since switching coaches to two-time Olympic champion Scott Moir. They missed the 2021 U.S. Championships due to a positive Covid case at their rink.
The ice dance field also includes Canada’s Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sørensen, who medaled at both of their Grand Prix assignments in 2019, and Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri, who took bronze at the 2018 Grand Prix Final for Italy.
No U.S. pairs’ teams are competing, with six-time reigning national champions Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise favored in their country.
Women’s and men’s short programs are Friday, followed by the short dance, women’s free skate and pairs’ short program on Saturday, and men’s free skate, free dance and pairs’ free skate on Sunday, Sept. 12.
The Olympic-season Grand Prix series begins Oct. 22-24 with Skate America.
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