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Alysa Liu defends national title in Greensboro

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2020 U.S. Nationals

Ladies’ Free Skate

Alysa Liu rose from second after the Short Program to defend her title after the Free Skate on Friday night in Greensboro, N.C. Mariah Bell captured the silver, while Bradie Tennell slipped to third for the bronze.

Liu reeled off a triple Axel-double toe, but underrotated and put a foot down on a quad Lutz attempt in her mature routine to “Illumination” by Jennifer Thomas. The defending champion also landed a second triple Axel as well as six more solid triple jumps—including two triple Lutz combinations, and showed level 4 spins and footwork throughout. The 14-year-old scored 160.12 points for the first in the free skate and overall (235.52).

“My goal this year is just to do my best,” said the 2019-20 Junior Grand Prix silver medalist. “Everyone falls (earlier during practice). I fell like that before, so it was not like ‘Oh my gosh, what I am going to do?’ I know how to recover from that and focus on other things. I iced it and relaxed for the rest of the day and didn’t let that fall get to me. I don’t mind not going (to Worlds) because I am happy that I get more practice before the big competitions. I am grateful because I do need that extra practice time.”

“Last year, it was more special because it was my first year, but this year, I am also very happy and excited,” she added. “Last year, it was my first time as a senior and to even to be at Nationals, and this year, it’s the new decade, and it’s a great start.”

Bell gave a solid skate except for an underrotated tripe Lutz in her emotional routine to “Hallelujah,” which featured six solid triples, including a triple flip-triple toe. The  2019 CS Nebelhorn Trophy champion was rewarded with +5 grades of execution (GOE) across the board for her level 4 layback spin and her footwork and change combination spin were also graded a level 4. She finished second in the free skate and overall (151.99 / 225.21).

“It’s a very special feeling,” said the 23-year-old of her standing ovation. “I hadn’t had that before in my career. The coolest thing about it was how into it the crowd was! They were so loud, and they were very cool. I am just glad I get to share what I do with an audience like that. I feel very fortunate to have that experience.”

“Adam (Rippon) has been such a major part of my success this year,” she pointed out. “He completely changed my outlook on training. He has given me so much time and energy, and to have that moment here with him was special.”

“This year (for the World team) for sure, we are very prepared,” said Bell. “We did very well in the Grand Prix circuit, with Bradie making it to the Final. We’re going to do our job, like we always do, and I think we will have a really good team this year.”

Skating to music from Cinema Paradiso, Tennell had a solid start, landing a triple Lutz-triple toe (twice), but underrotated the first jump in a triple flip-double toe and then fell on a triple loop. Despite the mistakes, the 2019 Skate America silver medalist still received the second highest component scores, as well as level 4 for all elements, and finished third in the free skate and overall (141.90 / 220.86).

“It’s been a really crazy week,” said the 21-year-old from Illinois. “This thing with my arm threw me off more than ever before. It was more challenging to compete here than the (Grand Prix) Final. I was more nervous for this than the Final. I really only felt like myself yesterday afternoon, so even to skate a short program like I did, even with a couple errors, I am really proud of that. No one wants to fall on your best jump, but we all learn from our mistakes.”

“Our goal (at Worlds) is to get the third spot back,” Tennell added.

Karen Chen struggled with several jumps in her routine to “Illumination” by Secret Garden, underrotating a triple Lutz, triple Salchow, and triple loop. The 2017 national champion also popped a flip, which received an edge call, but showed a very nice level 4 layback spin and footwork to finish fourth in the free skate and overall for the pewter medal (123.24 / 193.65).

“I honestly felt like I gave it my all,” said the 20-year-old. “I am disappointed how I skated, but this season I was just juggling so much. I was overcoming my injury of which I was out all last season. That was difficult to get over, and on top of that, adding school to it. Maybe I did a little too much this season, but I wanted to see if I could do it or not.”

“It (College at Cornell) was really challenging, the change in the complete environment,” shared Chen. “I wasn’t skating with the people I am used to. I needed to make school a priority, since classes are not negotiable. Having to figure out the times when I could fit skating in, it took a while to figure out what was working and what made sense. I had two to three weeks where I could train in Colorado before I came here. Being on campus had opened up my mind and it was great to make friends outside of the skating world.”

Amber Glenn, who stood in fourth after the short, finished ninth in the free skate (113.42) after falling on a triple Lutz and putting a foot down on a doubled flip. With a total score of 186.58, however, she was able to finish fifth overall.

“That first element came out, and I doubled it, and it was all downhill from there,” said Glenn. “I need to keep working on my mental toughness.”

Starr Andrews placed sixth (181.78) followed by Sierra Venetta (176.37) and Courtney Hicks (175.28).

“I can never take a breath because you can fall on a crossover, so my thought is to keep pushing and going, keep the crowd entertained even if it is just a crossover,” said Andrews. “I am relieved (when I am finished). I am not nervous or anxious anymore, and I did it to the best that I could. Just to keep improving motivates me. How I do at this competition makes me want to do better at the next one. I learned a lot this year, what to do and what not to do.”

Gracie Gold placed 12th in the free skate and overall (161.75).

“Even just practicing this past month, definitely another year I think we earned,” said Gold. “It was important to us that we finished because I trained for this event appropriately. I either do something zero or 100 percent. Anything, if I go for a jog, it has to be better than the one before. That’s why I prefer long programs. (The ovation) reminded me of 2014, people were up before it ended, like when I qualified for the Olympics.”