2-time US champ, Olympic hopeful Liu out with COVID-19

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Two-time champion Alysa Liu withdrew from the U.S. Figure Skating Championships after testing positive for COVID-19 on Friday

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Two-time champion Alysa Liu withdrew from the U.S. Figure Skating Championships after testing positive for COVID-19 on Friday, less than a day after a third-place finish in the short program put her in position to make the Olympic team.

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.

Just like Knierim and Frazier, who plan to petition for one of the two pairs spots on the Olympic team, 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.

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’m really excited that this is the Olympic year,” Liu said afterward, “but it doesn’t really change my approach to this competition. It’s like every other competition for me. I’m not approaching it any differently.”

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