Figure skating is a unique sport that continues to captivate millions of Americans across the country. Every year, eager figure skating fans gather at the arena or by the T.V. to watch the nation’s top figure skaters give their all on the ice at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
This year’s USFS Championships stood out in particular, as several competitors broke new records in American figure skating history. In the Ladies’ Free Skate event, gold medalist Alysa Liu made U.S. Figure Skating history, being a two-time, back-to-back national champion at the early age of fourteen. Bronze medalist Bradie Tennell broke a USFS scoring record, racking in 78.98 points in the short program, which marks the highest short program score ever in U.S. Figure Skating history.
Aside from scoring records, the 2020 U.S. Figure Skating Championships were truly special for various reasons. In the Ladies’ Free Skate event, retired American figure skater Adam Rippon made a special appearance to support silver medalist Mariah Bell. Previous two-time national champion and Olympic bronze medalist Gracie Gold returned to the ice for the last time after a three-year battle with depression and an eating disorder and gave an emotional performance during her free skate.
In the Men’s Free Skate event, Yale student Nathan Chen received a gold medal with outstanding short and free programs. Married couple Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim skated their way to first place in the Pairs Skating event, and Madison Chock and Evan Bates won gold in the Ice Dance event with a sultry ‘snake-charmer’ themed program.
The Ladies’ Free Skate event was the highlight of the competition, as many female skaters inspired awe with their amazing performances. Fourteen-year-old Alysa Liu shocked the nation defending her national title for the second year in a row with a phenomenal short and free skate that wowed the judges and spectators alike. “I love Alys.; I think she’s incredibly talented, especially at such a young age,” said Isabella Holmes ’21. However, Liu’s wasn’t the only act that stood out. Many viewers showed their appreciation for silver medalist Mariah Bell’s incredible free skate, like Helen Stone ’23. “Mariah Bell’s performance was absolutely breathtaking, and she embodied what figure skating is about,” Stone said. “You could feel her excitement, and it was just magical.”
Though many female skaters stole the spotlight, Nathen Chen’s stellar performance cannot go unnoticed. Combining powerful technical skating ability and beautiful artistry, Chen demonstrates what true figure skating talent is. “For me, Nathen Chen can do no wrong; obviously his technical performance is insane, but his components and his artistry deserve just as much recognition,” Stone said. “He’s the only one who deserves to win.” Nathan Chen has always amazed the crowd and the judges with his figure skating brilliance — he is a two-time World champion with four U.S. national titles and a bronze medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics — so it’s no surprise that he took the gold again at the 2020 USFS Championships.
Following the Championships, one truth is clear: figure skating is a mesmerizing sport that takes immense skill and years of hard work before it pays off. “Overall, I just love seeing figure skating on T.V. because I think it’s really underrepresented,” said Holmes, who also figure skates. Despite the Ladies’ and Men’s Free Skate events taking most of the spotlight, other categories such as Ice Dance are still loved by many. “I always love ice dance because I do ice dance as well, and I think seeing two people do cohesive movements is so incredible,” Holmes said. “I think the obsession with the jumps takes away from the beauty of figure skating and is honestly quite boring. With ice dance, you get to see beautiful skating, outstanding artistry, and entertaining performances,” said Stone. Figure skating is a sport that both viewers and skaters themselves love dearly. Not only is it a sport, but it is a form of self-expression and art, and this year’s championships exemplified the passion and artistry to which each figure skater devotes their life.
Not only is Figure Skating a sport, but it is a form of self-expression and art, and this year’s championships exemplified the passion and artistry to which each figure skater devotes their life.