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Bay Area Figure Skating Star Alysa Liu Tests Positive For COVID; Forced To Withdraw From US Championships

NASHVILLE (CBS SF/AP) -- Bay Area skating star Alysa Liu, among the favorites to win a gold medal at next month's Winter Olympics, announced Friday she has been forced to drop out of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships after testing positive for COVID-19.

The championships are also the qualifying event for the U.S. Olympic Team so Liu will now have to be awarded a place on the Beijing squad as an at-large selection.

She had placed third in the short program on Thursday night heading into Friday night's free skate competition.

On her Instagram account, Liu said she had been vaccinated and has been wearing a N95 mask.

"Things happen unfortunately, but it is what it is," she posted. "I'm feeling good physically and mentally."

Liu has informed U.S. Figure Skating she will petition for one of the three women's spots based on her body of recent work. She is a two-time U.S. champion and won two ISU Challenger Series events this season including at Nebelhorn Trophy where she secured the U.S. its third and final spot for the Olympic Games Beijing 2022.

The 16-year-old Liu is at least the fourth competitor to test positive for the virus in the run-up and during nationals, and the third that was expected to make the team for the Beijing Games. The pairs tandem of Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier dropped out the day before the start of competition when he returned a positive test.

More stressing to those still competing, particularly leaders Mariah Bell and Karen Chen, is the fact that several skaters were in close contact with Liu on Thursday night. Bell and Chen even shared a dais for interviews with Liu after the short program, though they were separated by several feet and all wore masks.

Liu's positive test came back during a routine test all skaters, coaches and other staff are required to take four days after arriving in Nashville. She had not been displaying any symptoms during practice this week.

U.S. Figure Skating is now going through a contact-tracing process in accordance with CDC recommendations.

Liu has long been considered the best hope for an American woman to stand alongside the Russians on the podium in Beijing. The youngest skater ever to win the U.S. championship is one of the few with the ability to land a clean triple axel, though she fell during the short program on what is considered by far the most difficult triple jump.

She still finished with 71.42 points in her program. Bell led with 75.55 and Chen was second with 74.55.

"I don't really think about beating others in competition. When you say, 'Beat the Russians,' that's not my goal," Liu said. "My goal is to skate how I want to skate. And I feel like that's just my goal."

Leave it to the rest of the close-knit skating world to hype Liu instead. It began when she triumphed at nationals in 2018, breaking Tara Lipinski's record for the youngest winner at 13 years old. And while she was too young to compete at the Pyeongchang Games that year, it was clear that Liu had her sights set on competing in Beijing.

Now, those hopes rest in the hands of a selection committee that will make their decision on Saturday.

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