Alysa Liu retires from figure skating competition at age 16

Alysa Liu

Alysa Liu retired from figure skating competition at age 16, three years after becoming the youngest U.S. champion in history and weeks after placing seventh at the Olympics and third at the world championships.

“I’m here to announce that i am retiring from skating,” was posted on her Instagram on Saturday. “I started skating when i was 5 so that’s about 11 years on the ice and it’s been an insane 11 years. a lot of good and a lot of bad. … i feel so satisfied with how my skating career has gone. now that i’m finally done with my goals in skating i’m going to be moving on with my life.”

Liu’s father and U.S. Figure Skating later confirmed the veracity of the post.

Liu said before and after last month’s world championships — where she became the first U.S. female singles skater to earn a medal in six years — that she was undecided on whether to continue competing next season.

Some skaters retire after one Olympics, though Liu would be the first U.S. female singles skater to not bid for a second Olympics since 2002 gold medalist Sarah Hughes.

Liu’s Olympic teammates — Mariah Bell and Karen Chen — also said last month that they were undecided about competing next season. Chen will resume studies at Cornell but could try to juggle skating.

Liu made a big splash in 2019, at age 13, when she broke Tara Lipinski‘s record as youngest U.S. champion. She was also the youngest woman to land a triple Axel internationally (also 13) and the first U.S. woman to land a quadruple jump in competition (age 14). She repeated as national champion in 2020.

Her last positively graded triple Axel or quad was in the 2019-20 season, after which she had multiple coaching changes in the last two years.

This year, she withdrew during the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in January after a positive COVID test following her third-place short program. She successfully petitioned onto the three-woman team as the highest-ranked American in international competition this season.

In her Olympic debut, she was the top American in seventh place. She followed that last month with a bronze medal at a world championships without Russian skaters.

Liu is the oldest of five children raised in the Bay Area by a single father who emigrated to the U.S. from China in 1989.

Philip Hersh contributed to this report.

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Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

Kendall Gretsch

Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine

Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”