NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Another huge name in U.S. figure skating has been sidelined with COVID-19.
Two-time national champion Alysa Liu, who is considered one of the favorites to represent the U.S. at the Beijing Winter Olympics, withdrew from the U.S. Figure Skating Championships after testing positive for COVID-19 on Friday morning, the national governing body said.
The news came less than 24 hours after Liu, 16, skated in the short program – placing third behind Mariah Bell and Karen Chen – and hours before she was set to return to the ice for the free skate.
“Things happen unfortunately but it is what it is,” Liu wrote on Instagram. “I’m thankful to U.S. Figure Skating for taking the extra precaution and having the necessary testing facilities to help keep everyone here as safe as possible. I’m feeling good physically and mentally and I’m wishing all the girls good luck for tonight!”
Liu’s agent, Yuki Saegusa, told USA TODAY Sports that the skater is “sad” but “has no symptoms.” She was tested Friday morning as part of the event’s protocols, which require all participants to provide a negative PCR test upon arrival and also take a second COVID-19 test on their fourth day present.
“She will petition to make the Olympic team,” Saegusa added.
There are three such slots available in women’s figure skating. The team will be announced Saturday afternoon.
Arguably Team USA’s best hope of winning an Olympic medal in an event that has been dominated by the Russians, Liu is the second star to be forced out of competition this week after a positive COVID-19 test. Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier withdrew Wednesday night after Frazier tested positive.
As the favorites in their respective events, Liu and the Knierim/Frazier duo still have strong chances of making Team USA, despite not being able to compete this week. But a positive test at this juncture could still prove problematic, given the rigorous pre-departure protocols that Beijing 2022 organizers have implemented.
According to the most recent “playbook” of COVID-19 countermeasures, all vaccinated athletes traveling to Beijing must submit two negative PCR test results within 96 hours of their flight to China. But athletes who have previously had COVID-19 must also fill out a medical certificate detailing their infection and recovery dates and send it to organizers “at least eight working days” before departing. And those who have tested positive within 30 days must take two additional PCR tests, taken 24 hours apart after recovery.
Liu and Frazier are among several Team USA hopefuls who might have to clear those additional benchmarks. Skier Mikaela Shiffrin and snowboarder Shaun White have also disclosed in recent weeks that they tested positive for COVID-19. The Games begin Feb. 4.
Liu, who won two U.S. championships before her 15th birthday, is widely considered to be one of the nation’s best up-and-coming skaters. She is one of the few female skater who regularly attempts and lands the notoriously difficult triple axel.
On Thursday night, the California native was one of the final athletes to compete in the short program, placing third with a score of 71.42. She later spoke to reporters at a news conference, sitting next to Bell and Chen. All three wore masks.
The event is being held in front of media members and paying spectators at Bridgestone Arena, despite the rise of COVID-19 cases in the Nashville area due to the omicron variant. Recent similar events in other sports, like the U.S. Speedskating trials in Milwaukee, are instead being held behind closed doors due to COVID-19.
Contributing: Christine Brennan
Contact Tom Schad at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.