Figure Skating

Alysa Liu rallies to defend U.S. title

AP

Alysa Liu watched Mariah Bell put out the performance of her life. Then the 14-year-old defending champion did Bell one better.

Liu needed all of her technical brilliance in her impressive jumping arsenal to hold off at the U.S. Championships title Friday night.

“I was very happy for her,” Liu said. “I said, ‘OK, she did well and I also have to do well.’ ”

No American woman comes close to the repertoire of jumps the 14-year-old Liu possesses. She hit two triple axels among eight triples overall and attempted the only quad of the event, a lutz she under-rotated. Her 160.12 points by far exceeded the rest of the field and lifted her to 235.52 and up from second place after the short program.

Skating last, Liu had little margin after Bell’s superb skate.

Bell (225.21) knew after her final triple lutz, her seventh triple jump of the program, that she’d outdone herself. A huge smile spread across her face for the final half-minute as she flew across the ice with spirals and then her last spins.

“I saw how into it the crowd was and I love to share what I do with the audience like that,” she said. “I feel very awesome to have that experience.”

Bradie Tennell, the 2018 U.S. champ, has vastly improved her presentation, and she’s usually the most precise of American female jumpers. Her fall on a triple loop not only was surprising, it dropped her to third place.

Tennell (220.86) landed six triples, all of them efficiently, and her program flowed nicely, with good pace and dynamic spins. It wasn’t particularly exciting, but it was among her most interesting routines. And she did it after an infection to her elbow caused “a really crazy week.”