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Meet the youngest ever female figure skater to land a triple axel

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Pip Cook
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13-year-old Alysa Liu recently became the youngest woman ever to land one of the hardest moves in figure skating.

Alysa Liu stunned judges last month as she became the youngest ever figure skater to land a triple axel - before going on to land another, moments later. The feat earned her the title of US women’s figure skating champion - the highest accolade at national level, and another achievement that sees her smash records by become the youngest female skater to do so. 

Alysa at the championships in January 

Liu glided seemingly effortlessly through her routine after landing the notoriously difficult manoeuvre twice early on in her skate, taking to the ice immediately after defending champion Bradie Tennell fell during her programme. The prodigy stole the show, and was overcome with emotion when judges announced her score. 

The winner’s podium

Liu’s skate saw her become the third woman to land a triple axel cleanly in the history of the US figure skating nationals. The tremendous accomplishment was last achieved by 15-year-old Kimmie Meissner in 2005, over a decade after Tonya Harding sent shockwaves through the sport in 1991 as the first skater ever to land the manoeuvre. Harding’s career was recently immortalised onscreen with the release of I, Tonya starring Margot Robbie in 2017. 

Meissner, who skated her way to third place in the 2005 championships

The title of youngest ever national champion was previously held by Tara Lipinski who was aged just 14 when she won in 1997. Lipinski was at the competition last month when her record was smashed, and greeted an emotional Liu afterwards to congratulate her. “Records are made to be broken,” said Lipinski. “It is quite an honour that she is the one to do it. What a phenomenal talent.”

Lipinski gliding into the record books in 1997

Liu joins the ever-growing ranks of young female sports stars who are taking competitions by storm. In 2014, US golfer Lucy Li became the youngest ever person to qualify for the US Women’s Open when she managed to win a spot in the competition aged just 11 years old. She didn’t make it through to the second round, but successfully made a name for herself as one to watch in the future. In the same year, 13-year-old Erraid Davies became Scotland’s youngest ever Commonwealth competitor in the para-swimming competition, taking home a bronze medal in the women’s 100m breaststroke.

Junior golfer Lucy Li

Speaking of her win last month on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Liu explained how her focus is key to her success: “I don’t think about anything else. I just focus on myself and I tell myself I still have more to go,” she said. 

Liu teaching Fallon her pre-comp routine

But the teenager is showing no signs of slowing down and has reportedly already set her sites on the 2022 Bejing Olympics. This will be the first opportunity for Liu to compete at international level, when she has passed her 18th birthday. When asked whether she’ll find having to wait until then frustrating, the teenager was optimistic. “I’m not too worried,” Liu said. “I get more time to work on my jumps, skating skills, spins, and just trying to learn more.”

Liu and her trainer when they realised she was the new champion

We’re excited to see what 2022 has in store for the skating star. In the meantime, here are Alysa Liu’s four top tips for graceful skating to stop us looking like Bambi every time we venture onto the rink. 

1) Flow

“If you flow and you have a lot of speed you’ll look very graceful on the ice. I’d say flow and speed are the most important things.”

2) Jumps

“You have to learn how to jump correctly, and how to make it look pretty. Jumps are what make a very good skater.”

3) Spin

“If you spin super fast, you get a lot of points. And you look extremely awesome, obviously.”

4) Stop

“Every single person needs to learn how to stop. It’s very important to stop.”

You can watch Alysa's full routine here

Hopefully we can master at least one of those before the Olympics come around in three years time. Better start with number four…

Images: Getty

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