Fresh off her winning her second consecutive U.S. Championships title, Alysa Liu is now putting the final touches to her programs as she prepares for the 2020 World Junior Championships, which take place in Tallinn, Estonia, March 2-8.
Though she is still riding the wave of excitement from her record-breaking performance at nationals in Greensboro, North Carolina, in late January, the 14-year-old is eager to get back onto competitive ice. In Greensboro, Liu showed she is not just an athlete with big tricks, but is also maturing into a steely competitor as well. Just before she took to the ice for her free skate — which produced a record-breaking score domestically — Mariah Bell (who finished second) brought the house down with a career-defining performance that was rewarded with, at the time, the highest score ever handed out at a U.S. Championships. Six minutes later Liu bettered it.
“I guess I was just happy for Mariah,” said Lui, who took in the moment and smiled as Bell’s result was announced. “I’m happy for people sometimes, but then I also have my stuff to do. So, I can be happy for them for one minute, and then I can focus purely on myself and forget about what they did before me. I can’t believe that I won two times in a row. I am so happy. It was unbelievable — like a dream to me. I worked very hard for it, so I’m very glad that I won.”
Liu is about to enter unchartered waters as she seeks to add a World Junior medal to her trophy case. The California teenager is excited to be competing at her first Junior Worlds and is looking to put out two clean programs. “I don’t expect to be perfect … there are obviously going to be mistakes, but I can learn from them,” said Liu. “I just want to enjoy the experience because if I am not enjoying it, then why put in all the hard work? Luckily, I’ve been enjoying every competition.”
The teenager knows that there are other strong competitors that she will face in Tallinn, particularly those from Russia, Japan and South Korea. Her stiffest competition in Tallinn will come from Kamila Valieva, the reigning Junior Grand Prix Final champion, and the only skater to beat Liu this season.
Despite having a resume that could warrant a trip to the World Championships in Montreal next month if she were age eligible, Liu understands she needs to work on many aspects of her skating to be ready to challenge the best in the world. As part of her preparation for Junior Worlds, she and her coach Laura Lipetsky have been focused on improving her consistency and the quality of her elements.
“There are a lot of girls all around the world who are really good, who work really hard for everything, but it all just depends on what you are able to do on competition day,” said Liu. “I have been working on my speed, choreography, jumps, and spins. I have been working on the things I need to improve.”
Liu will be eligible to compete at the senior level internationally in the 2021-2022 season, and said her goal is to earn a ticket to the Olympic Winter Games in Beijing. She is keenly aware of the pressure she will be under to claim a berth on the U.S. Olympic team in her first senior season. “It will be different. There will be more pressure, but if I just enjoy the process and don’t stress too much, everything should be fine,” said the 2019 Junior Grand Prix Final silver medalist.
Despite her success this season, Liu is taking nothing for granted as she heads into Tallinn. “I would be happy with any podium placement,” she said. “I don’t know how others are going to do, so I can’t say for sure what place I would get — but hopefully I will win a medal.
“I am so excited to be going to another country, and am especially looking forward to seeing the beautiful preserved medieval city of Tallinn.