DETROIT, Mich. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Alysa Liu was already a figure skating phenom. Now she's a national champion at age 13.
Liu stole the show Friday night, breezing through a free skate that included two triple axels and dethroning 2018 winner Bradie Tennell at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Liu was overcome with emotions after becoming the youngest gold medalist at this event.
"I was just happy that I beat my personal record, and I did a clean long program," Liu said.
Liu had already landed a triple axel in the short program Thursday, and she was in second place behind Tennell entering Friday.
Tennell - a bronze medalist in the team event at the 2018 Olympics - fell twice during her long program. Liu meanwhile, skating immediately after and seized the opportunity.
Her first triple axel was in combination with a double toe loop. Then she landed another triple axel, and by the time she finished her performance — set to "Witches of Eastwick" by John Williams — she was beaming.
Until Friday, Olympic gold medalist Tara Lipinski was the youngest women's champion at nationals after winning at age 14 in 1997.
"Records are made to be broken," Lipinski said afterward. "It is quite an honor that she is the one to do it. What a phenomenal talent."
The women's competition was without several big names, with former Olympians Karen Chen, Mirai Nagasu, and Gracie Gold all missing it for various reasons. Now Liu looks to become the new face of the sport and provide a boost for American figure skating. The U.S. hasn't won an Olympic medal in women's figure skating since 2006.
"To handle the pressure like she did, and to push the technical envelope as far as she's pushing it, at such a young age, is truly mind blowing," Lipinski said. "I think she's the future of U.S. ladies' figure skating."
The 4-foot, 7-inch Liu had already turned heads in August, when she became the youngest woman to land a triple axel in international competition. On Friday, she showed poise and ability on a big stage, although international stardom may have to wait a bit. Under the current age restriction, she's not even eligible to compete at worlds until 2022.
"I'm not too worried about that part," Liu said. "Because I get more time to work on my jumps, skating skills, spins, and just trying to learn more."
Before the talented kid grows up into an Olympic contender in 2022, the pint-sized prodigy got to enjoy a sweet moment with her fellow skaters on Friday. Tennell and third-place finisher Mariah Bell had to help the 13-year-old onto the podium because she was too small to reach her lofty gold medal platform.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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