At 4 feet, 7 inches, Alysa Liu leaps into history - and stands atop U.S. women's skating

At 4 feet, 7 inches, Alysa Liu leaps into history - and stands atop U.S. women's skating

DETROIT – The top step of the awards podium at Little Caesars Arena is 1 foot, 10 inches high.

Alysa Liu, who is 4 feet, 7 inches tall, needed to get to that step after Friday’s free skate at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Liu stood in front of the podium, quickly sized up the chances of being able to jump from the ice onto the spot she had just earned and then let Bradie Tennell and Mariah Bell reach down to pull her up to the step between them.

It was the only extraordinary leap Liu did not attempt in the past two days.

Alysa Liu is helped onto the podium by silver and bronze medalists Bradie Tennell and Mariah Bell. AP Photo

She pulled off all the others, vaulting into the record books with a combination of insouciance, enthusiasm, ambition and stunning poise under pressure for one so young.

“She is the future of U.S. ladies’ skating,” said 1998 Olympic champion Tara Lipinski. “And she will be the one to push the next generation forward.”

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Alysa Liu makes history but wants to make more

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Twenty-five seconds into her short program Thursday, Alysa Liu made history.

She was the first woman to land a triple Axel in the short program at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Not bad for a 13-year-old making her senior debut at nationals.

And not enough for Liu. She wants to make more.

“She definitely wants to be the youngest champion,” said her coach, Laura Lipetsky. “That’s in the back of her head.”

It won’t be easy. Liu, second after the short program, likely will need another historic performance to overcome reigning champion Bradie Tennellwho takes a 2.71-point lead into Friday’s free skate.

But one would not be wise to discount the possibility of Liu pulling it off.

For the whole story on NBCSports.Com, click here:

And for a brief story on Bradie Tennell taking command of the short program, click here:

Talking point: Nagasu suddenly in singles medal conversation

Talking point:  Nagasu suddenly in singles medal conversation

GANGNEUNG, South Korea - Before the Olympics began, the idea that Mirai Nagasu would be in any discussion about potential women's singles medalists was fanciful, even a bit preposterous.

That all changed last Monday.

"I've had her in the conversation for a week," said Robin Cousins of Great Britain, the 1980 Olympic gold medalist and BBC commentator.

A history-making triple axel jump in the team event free skate put Nagasu's name on the Olympic sports world's lips -- and on those of entertainment world celebrities like the Big Bang Theory's Mayim Bialik and Modern Family's Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who have congratulated her about it on Twitter.

"What Mirai has done is absolutely amazing," said teammate Karen Chen, speaking of the triple axel. "I think she will inspire many younger skaters that the impossible is possible."

But it was the 3 minutes, 45 seconds of near-flawless performance following her triple axel that convinced the sport's observers she was not a one-trick pony but a skater with renewed mastery of overall skills to match the resolute will that has generated one of the most endearing comebacks in figure skating history.

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This girl was on fire: Mirai Nagasu smokes triple axel (and rest of program), blazing her way into history

This girl was on fire: Mirai Nagasu smokes triple axel (and rest of program), blazing her way into history

GANGNEUNG, South Korea - She had been so down, so utterly devastated at having been left off the 2014 Olympic team in a controversial but justified decision. The day that happened, Mirai Nagasu skated an exhibition program at the U.S. championships gala with teary eyes and a shattered soul.

At that low point in her lengthy career, and for much of the next three years, it was almost impossible to imagine Nagasu blissfully soaring the way she did Monday, reaching a height no U.S. woman had attained in the history of Olympic figure skating: landing a clean triple axel.

And not just any triple axel: a brilliantly executed 3 1/2 revolutions in the air, followed by a totally secure landing.

It began a thoroughly sparkling performance that would lead her teammate, Adam Rippon, to cry for joy while watching Nagasu from the U.S. team box at the Gangneung Ice Arena.

It was a feeling undoubtedly shared by anyone familiar with Nagasu's emotionally charged story.

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In "I, Tonya," truth is slippery as ice

In "I, Tonya," truth is slippery as ice

The screen is black.  There is a cough.  And then another.  This is the first 30 seconds of “I, Tonya.”  It is all the time necessary for those of us familiar with anecdotal details about Tonya Harding’s life to know that the screenwriter and filmmakers had done their homework.

Tonya Harding, a living series of contradictions, is an asthmatic who undermined her athletic career by smoking and, consequently, coughing.  Coughing is the first sound – and smoking the first view – of Margot Robbie portraying Harding on the screen.   

In watching the rest of the movie, knowing this story as well as those of us who covered it know this story led to a number of issues.

The first time I saw it, in a theater at October’s Chicago International Film Festival, I got hung up on trying to reconcile the film’s narrative with the facts.

My next three viewings, on a screener provided by the film’s distributors, Neon and 30West, allowed me to see “I, Tonya” for what it is as a movie:  a clever, farcical, sarcastic, wonderfully acted comic tragedy (or tragic comedy?).  But I came away feeling the film had mistakenly fallen in love with Tonya, making it prey to the temptation to pardon Harding for her missteps, her irresponsible behavior and her willful waste of a generational talent. 

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