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Alysa Liu named to U.S. Olympic figure skating team despite COVID-19 withdrawal, joining Mariah Bell, Karen Chen

·3 min read

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The U.S. Olympic women's figure skating team is set.

And despite recently testing positive for COVID-19, Alysa Liu is on it.

The 16-year-old successfully petitioned for her spot and will join national champion Mariah Bell and runner-up Karen Chen in representing Team USA at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing next month. The three-woman team was finalized and announced Saturday afternoon, one day after the conclusion of the women's competition at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

"I've basically been training like forever for this moment," Liu said in a news conference, which she joined remotely from the Nashville hotel room where she is isolating. "I'm really happy with the decisions I've made (in my career), because apparently they were all pretty good ones, because I'm here right now. And yeah, I'm really excited to go with Mariah and Karen."

Meanwhile, Lindsay Thorngren has been selected as the first alternate for Beijing – which could prove to be a particularly important role this year, given the COVID-19 concerns surrounding the Games.

The remaining members of the U.S. figure skating team – which will include three men, three ice dance teams and two pairs – will be announced Sunday.

Alysa Liu skates during the championship ladies short program in the 2022 Toyota U.S. Figure Skating Championships at Bridgestone Arena.
Alysa Liu skates during the championship ladies short program in the 2022 Toyota U.S. Figure Skating Championships at Bridgestone Arena.

For the women, Saturday's announcement was years in the making yet not entirely surprising. After the withdrawals of Bradie Tennell (injury) and Amber Glenn (COVID-19), Bell, Chen and Liu were widely viewed as the top three skaters in the U.S. women's field.

Liu and Bell, 25, will be making their Olympic debuts, while Chen will be making her second appearance. The 22-year-old finished 11th at the 2018 Winter Games.

None of the three U.S. skaters are expected to contend for medals in the women's competition in Beijing, as the event has been dominated in recent years by the Russians. But Liu, a two-time national champion before her 15th birthday, might represent Team USA's best shot at the podium.

A California native, Liu is one of the few U.S. women to ever land the notoriously-tricky triple axel in competition. After testing positive for COVID-19 on Friday morning, she was forced to withdraw from nationals between the short program and free skate. She said Saturday that she feels fine and watched the free skate from her hotel room while talking with her friends on FaceTime.

"It was kind of cool to watch it," Liu said. "Normally I don't really watch competitions, especially not with my friends. So it was fun watching a competition with my friends."

Liu said she will remain in Nashville until she tests negative. She will have to produce a string of such tests in order to travel to Beijing.

Bell, meanwhile, is believed to be the oldest female figure skater to make Team USA in an individual capacity since the late 1920s. She won her first national championship in nine tries Saturday night to lock up her Olympic spot.

"It was not the easiest four years, but I'm really excited with just how everything's gone," Bell said. "I've sacrificed a lot to be at this point, and I'm just honored and grateful and can't wait to be in Beijing."

Contact Tom Schad at tschad@usatoday.com or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Mariah Bell, Karen Chen, Alysa Liu to compete at 2022 Winter Olympics