Alysa Liu became the first American woman to land a quad in competition when she hit her signature quadruple lutz during a dominant free skate to win the Junior Grand Prix on Saturday.
The 14-year-old phenom opened her program in Lake Placid, New York, with the tough triple axel, then landed a triple lutz-triple toe combination and a sequence that included a triple lutz and a triple salchow. The result was a free skate score of 80.14, nearly 14 points clear of second place.
Liu also won the short program to finish the Grand Prix with 208.10 points. Yeonjeong Park was second with 186.58 points, and Russia’s Anastasia Tarakanova edged South Korea’s Seoyeon Ji by 0.03 points for third.
“It’s a good learning experience since it’s only my first junior Grand Prix and one of my first big competitions this season,” said Liu, who in January became the youngest U.S. women’s figure skating champion in history. “I’m just trying to keep learning from this.”
Only a handful of women have landed quads in competition. Japan’s Miki Ando was the first in 2002, landing a quad salchow at the Junior Grand Prix. Russia’s Alexandra Trusova was the first woman to land the more difficult quad lutz during her free skate at the Junior Grand Prix last year.
Liu landed the quad lutz during the recent Aurora Games, but that event is unsanctioned. The jump she landed on Saturday will go down in history as a breakthrough for American skaters.
“It’s pretty cool,” she said, “but I don’t obsess over it.”
In fact, the sprightly Liu has the ability to land several different quads, but she chose the lutz for competition because she figure her triple lutz is easier than her other triples.
“For me, my triple salchow is harder than the lutz,” she explained, “so I figure since my triple lutz is my favorite jump and easiest for me to do, I might as well try the quad lutz.”
It wasn’t a perfect skate for Liu, who is already being tagged as a favorite at the Beijing Olympics in 2022. She fell on the second of her two triple axel attempts, and she didn’t produce a clear edge when she landed a triple flip near the end of her free skate.
Still, she was plenty good enough to end Russia’s streak of 20 consecutive Junior Grand Prix women’s titles dating to 2016. The last American to win an event on the circuit was Polina Edmunds in 2013.
“I love my program a lot. I love both of my programs,” Liu said. “I think I just need to get used to the (free skate) more and practice it more so I can get better.”
How much better can she get?
There is plenty of time to find out.
Liu can’t compete at the senior level until the next Olympic season because of her age, which means plenty of chances to refine her spins and footwork while honing her myriad of jumps.
Her schedule has her skating another Junior Grand Prix in Poland next month.
“My favorite things to practice are probably my jumps,” Liu admitted. “I don’t really have a least favorite. I kind of like all of it. But I especially like the jumps.”
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