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New US figure skating champ Alysa Liu sets sights on Olympics (she's only 13!)

Liu spoke about becoming the youngest figure skating champion in American history and why she owes so much to her father.
/ Source: TODAY

After Alysa Liu accomplished a feat last week that no U.S. women's figure skater had ever achieved, she gave away her gold medal.

Liu, 13, became the youngest women's U.S. champion in history on Friday and then gave the winning medal to her father, Arthur, in thanks for all he has done for her.

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"He just helps me so much bringing me to the rink every day, and I think he puts in a lot of effort and he deserves it,'' Liu told Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb in an exclusive interview on TODAY Tuesday.

Liu erased the record set by current NBC figure skating commentator Tara Lipinski, who was 14 when she won the national title in 1997. Lipinski went on to win the gold medal at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

"She is the future of U.S. ladies’ skating," Lipinski told NBC Sports. "And she will be the one to push the next generation forward."

Alysa Liu turned in a history-making performance at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit. Getty Images

Liu, who has been skating since she was five, got to meet with Lipinski afterward as she basked in the unprecedented victory.

"She was like 'I'm so proud of you, records are meant to be broken, and I'm so happy you broke the record,'' Liu said.

The teen from northern California landed two triple axels during her free skate, which had never been done by an American woman. Liu, who also landed a triple axel in her short program, is just the fourth American woman in history to even land a single triple axel in competition.

"Every time I watch I'm like, 'Yes, I did this, I did this,' and I'm just looking over everything I did,'' Liu said.

While her precocious performance wowed the judges and the fans at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, her father knew she had it in her.

"I was calm,'' Arthur said on TODAY. "I have confidence in her. I knew that she was going to deliver."

Liu and her coach, Laura Lipetsky, reacted with surprise and joy after realizing Liu was in first place. Getty Images

She also did her best to ensure that luck was on her side.

"I'm actually nervous right before I get on, but me and my coach (Laura Lipetsky) do our ritual,'' she said. "I jump up and down eight times into my landing position. It's like a superstition if I don't do it."

Liu's sparkling performance put her at the top of the podium after defeating defending champion Bradie Tennell, who turns 21 on Thursday, and third-place finisher Mariah Bell, 22, who both had to help the 4-foot-7 dynamo step up on to the raised podium for the medal ceremony.

"I was so happy,'' Liu said. "I actually couldn't get on the podium that easily. They had to help me up, but it's a cool photo."

Women's champion Alysa Liu is helped onto the podium by Bradie Tennell, left, who finished in second, and Mariah Bell, who finished third, at the the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Friday, Jan. 25, 2019, in Detroit.Paul Sancya / AP

The teen who loves Ariana Grande and Billie Eilish is now looking forward to earning a spot in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. She will have to wait until she's 15 to compete in senior international competitions due to age restrictions.

"I get extra practice before (the Olympics)," she said.

The sky is the limit for the 13-year-old star.

"What a talent," Lipinski said. "Twenty-two years ago, I tried to push the technical envelope and now Alysa has taken it to the next level."