Alysa Liu changes coaches, location a month and a half before Olympic figure skating team selected

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Two-time senior national champion Alysa Liu, the most successful U.S. women’s figure skater this season, has changed coaches barely two months before the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.

The skater’s father, Arthur Liu, confirmed the switch Monday morning in a text to NBCSports.com.

Two days after returning from the NHK Trophy in Tokyo, which ended Nov. 14, Liu left coaches Massimo Scali and Jeremy Abbott in the San Francisco Bay Area and went to Colorado Springs, Colorado, to train with Christy Krall, Drew Meekins and Viktor Pfeifer.

Asked the reason for the change, Arthur Liu wrote, “I felt Alysa needed more intensity in her training and the coaches and I were not on the same page as to how the training should be.”

Arthur Liu admitted he was “a bit” worried about making the change so close to both the February Olympics and the January U.S. Championships, at which the U.S. team for Beijing will be selected.

Liu, 16, began the season with victories at the Cranberry Cup International in Massachusetts and two Challenger Series events in Europe. In the second, the Nebelhorn Trophy, her finish guaranteed the U.S. its third women’s spot in Beijing.

She followed with her debut appearances on the senior Grand Prix circuit, finishing fifth at Skate Canada and fourth at NHK. In the free skates at both those events, several of her jumps were penalized for incomplete rotations. Those penalties were the mathematical difference between fourth and a silver medal at NHK.

Meekins, world junior pairs’ champion in 2006, said in a text message he and Pfeifer would be in charge of Liu’s overall training.

“I will focus on training and performing the program and readying her for competition,” Meekins said. “Christy and Eddie (Shipstad, who works with skaters on the pole harness) will focus on stabilizing her jump technique through Dartfish and other analysis.

“In the next 40 days, the goal is to make adjustments to her training routine so that she can give an optimal performance at the US Championships, maximizing GOE on all of her elements, as well as performing clean jumps.

“At the same time, we will prepare for the Olympic Games, so if she is selected, she will have the necessary preparation she would need to deliver a performance in Beijing that is competitive with what the top women skaters in the world are doing.”

This is the second full coaching change in two seasons for Liu, who in 2019 became the youngest senior singles national champion ever at age 13. She won the title again in 2020.

After finishing third at the 2020 World Junior Championships, Liu left her longtime coach, Laura Lipetsky, with plans to train some of the time with Lee Barkell and Lori Nichol in Canada and some with Scali in Oakland. Travel restrictions following the start of the Covid pandemic quashed those plans, leaving her to work just virtually with Barkell and Nichol, an arrangement that lasted only a few months.

By early autumn 2020, Olympic ice dancer Scali had taken over Liu’s training, and four-time U.S. champion Abbott began working with her as well. Abbott got on a full-time role later in autumn.

They found themselves with a Liu whose physical changes compromised her ability to do the big jumps that had been her calling card. A hip injury last fall made it problematic for her to jump at all early in a season where Covid would make live competition a rarity.

Liu managed to get fourth at the 2021 nationals and made enough progress since then that, in the absence of injured reigning U.S. champion Bradie Tennell, she once again was the leading woman nationally.

“Alysa greatly appreciates both Massimo and Jeremy, and I also thank both of them for taking care of her,” Arthur Liu wrote.

Scali said he was taken aback by the split.

“Alysa is an amazing young woman, and I’m so proud of the work we’ve accomplished in the past two years,” Scali texted. “Even though the decision came as a shock to me, I respect it and wish her nothing but the best. In my heart, I will always cherish our journey together, and I will be here cheering her on.”

Abbott’s reaction was similar.

“I have nothing but deep respect and gratitude for the team I was so lucky to be a part of, and for the time I got to spend mentoring a truly remarkable human being,” Abbott said via text. “Though I may no longer be coaching Alysa, I will always be in her corner supporting her.”

Arthur Liu added that his daughter had not moved to Colorado Springs but was merely there for training. He said she would also train at times in Oakland with Phillip DiGuglielmo, who had been her pull harness coach there, but she would be spending most of the time between now and the U.S. Championships in Colorado. The Liu family lives near Oakland.

Liu had burst onto the scene in the 2019 season, when she became the first U.S. woman to land a triple axel in a nationals short program and the first U.S. woman to land two triple axels in any free skate. Early in the 2020 season, she became the first U.S. woman to land a quadruple jump in competition.

Liu has made six attempts at triple axels this season, with three getting downgraded, two called under-rotated and one called a quarter-rotation short. She has not tried a quad since the 2020 World Junior Championships.

Her performance and skating skills, which Scali focused on, have noticeably improved. After winning the two national titles by piling up points on jumps, Liu has the second-through-fifth highest free skate program component scores by U.S. women this season, barely trailing only one by Karen Chen. In their one head-to-head meeting, at Skate Canada, Liu had a higher PCS.

“I want to thank Massimo for all that he did for her,” Meekins said. “So rarely can tangible improvements in components and skating skills be seen, as they were in the work he did with her.”

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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Eliud Kipchoge breaks marathon world record in Berlin

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Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge broke his own world record in winning the Berlin Marathon, clocking 2:01:09 to lower the previous record time of 2:01:39 he set in the German capital in 2018.

Kipchoge, 37 and a two-time Olympic champion, earned his 15th win in 17 career marathons to bolster his claim as the greatest runner in history over 26.2 miles.

His pacing was not ideal. Kipchoge slowed in the final miles, running 61:18 for the second half after going out in an unprecedented 59:51 for the first 13.1 miles. He still won by 4:49 over Kenyan Mark Korir.

“I was planning to go through it [the halfway mark] 60:50, 60:40,” Kipchoge said. “My legs were running actually very fast. I thought, let me just try to run two hours flat, but all in all, I am happy with the performance.

“We went too fast [in the first half]. It takes energy from the muscles. … There’s still more in my legs [to possibly lower the record again].”

MORE: Berlin Marathon Results

Ethiopian Tigist Assefa won the women’s race in 2:15:37, the third-fastest time in history for somebody who ran one prior marathon in 2:34:01. Only Brigid Kosgei (2:14:14 in Chicago in 2019) and Paula Radcliffe (2:15:25 in London in 2003) have gone faster.

American record holder Keira D’Amato, who entered as the top seed, was sixth in 2:21:48. D’Amato, who went nearly a decade between competitive races after college, owns the American record of 2:19:12 and now also the 10th-best time in U.S. history.

“Today wasn’t my best day ever, but it was the best I could do today,” she said in a text message, according to Race Results Weekly, adding that she briefly stopped and walked late in the race.

The last eight instances the men’s marathon world record has been broken, it has come on the pancake-flat roads of Berlin. It began in 2003, when Kenyan Paul Tergat became the first man to break 2:05.

The world record was 2:02:57 — set by Kenyan Dennis Kimetto in 2014 — until Kipchoge broke it for the first time four years ago.

The following year, Kipchoge became the first person to cover 26.2 miles in under two hours, clocking 1:59:40 in a non-record-eligible showcase rather than a race.

Kipchoge’s focus going forward is trying to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles in Paris in 2024. He also wants to win all six annual World Marathon Majors. He’s checked off four of them, only missing Boston (run in April) and New York City (run every November).

Kipchoge grew up on a farm in Kapsabet in Kenya’s Rift Valley, often hauling by bike several gallons of the family’s milk to sell at the local market. Raised by a nursery school teacher, he ran more than three miles to and from school. He saved for five months to get his first pair of running shoes.

At 18, he upset legends Hicham El Guerrouj and Kenenisa Bekele to win the 2003 World 5000m title on the track. He won Olympic 5000m medals (bronze in 2004 and silver in 2008), then moved to the marathon after failing to make the 2012 Olympic team on the track.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

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The U.S. goes for its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headline a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, includes neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team includes nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 52 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The field also includes host Australia, the U.S.’ former primary rival, and Olympic silver medalist Japan.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), isn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France 74, Mali 59 Group B
4 a.m. Australia 69, Serbia 54 Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada 70, Japan 56 Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Group A
11:30 p.m. Mali vs. Serbia Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA vs. South Korea Group A
2 a.m. France vs. Japan Group B
3:30 a.m. China vs. Puerto Rico Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Canada Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico vs. South Korea Group A
11:30 p.m. Belgium vs. China Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Group A
2 a.m. Canada vs. Mali Group B
3:30 a.m. France vs. Serbia Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Japan Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. Quarterfinal
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
4 a.m. Quarterfinal
6:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
Fri., Sept. 30 3 .m. Semifinal
5:30 a.m. Semifinal
11 p.m. Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. Final